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Wish You Were Here

Its been 8 years since I had to say “See you later”.

How has so much time passed?  How can it have been 8 years, when I can still remember every single vivid detail from the day we found out we had lost you?  It doesn’t seem fair that time plays tricks like that- making some good memories feel like its been decades  (like feeling you kick), while I can still remember how I lost my breath when I KNEW we had lost you, and I wanted to shout for your brothers not to look at the ultrasound screen, but I couldn’t find my voice.

Sometimes I get jealous of the moms that can easily name off how many kids they have.  For me, I have the option of either going into detail (which can be akin to picking at a scab until it bleeds) or naming off all but the ones I lost, carrying with that choice the mom guilt of not acknowledging the life- however brief- of one of my kids.

Moms of miscarriages and stillbirths, though- its a completely different club; not better, not worse, just… different.  We ONLY had a “fetus”or a  “clump of cells” or whatever society wants to claim.  Since we never had to stay up late with those babies, kiss their boo boos, worry about fevers, laugh at their silly antics, etc, our babies don’t seem to usually “count” as much as those who’ve lost a child.  Sure, people will say they’re sorry for our loss initially, but after a while, its felt as though we should just “get over it”.  They’ll tell us to “look at the bright side”, or (if we had kids after our loss) they remind us that “if we’d had the one we lost, we might not have the ones we have now.”  Don’t they know that’s ALWAYS on our mind when we start to miss our babies we’ve lost and then hear the ones in our arms call us “Mommy”?  We aren’t wishing we could have one instead of the other; we’re just wishing that there was some way we could have had them all.

And yes, I know what you’re thinking, Christopher- if I’d had your brothers AND you, there’s a chance I’d be more crazy than I already am, and we’d be WAY worse off financially; but to hear you laugh along with your brothers right now- I’d happily live in a cardboard box and eat Ramen noodles until you all graduated.

I know that “everything happens for a reason”- it was my mantra for getting me through those difficult, heartbreaking weeks and months after you were delivered; but despite staring into the eyes of each of your brothers, I still try desperately to understand the reason behind my losses.  I told myself-as I’m sure any mom who’s had a “Rainbow Baby” has- that maybe our new baby might have the cure to cancer or bring about world peace, but then I have to wonder what the world lost out on when we lost you.

See, each pregnancy starts off the same way: you see the “+” sign, and you realize you’re actually carrying another life inside you.  If its happy news. you start imagining what he (or she!) will look like, who they’ll be, what kind of addition they’ll make to your family, how your life will change…

And that’s the only part where I think this club I’m a part of has it a little worse.  Our babies we lost never even had a chance.  I never got to experience your personality, Chris.  You never had a nitch in our family tree, and since you passed at 15 weeks along, we never even got to examine your features to see who you looked like, because -as your dad has said, all babies look like aliens the earlier they’re born.

The only question I most definitely had answered was how you changed my life- and an overabundance of “what ifs”.

I think its time that the world should recognize any loss of life as significant and not something that they should be told to “move on” from.  It shouldn’t be marked as “less than” simply because the world never met our babies.  The fact of the matter is, WE did.  We had hopes for them, visions of their futures; we changed physically and emotionally with the anticipation of meeting them; we saw them squirm on the ultrasound and joked about paying them back for the heartburn and nausea; we felt them kick and just KNEW they’d have a career in soccer.

Shouldn’t that count for something?

Shouldn’t it be normal to acknowledge their due date or the date we had to say goodbye?

Shouldn’t we be able to count and celebrate their Heavenly birthdays without being told to move on?

I AM moving on.  I know time hasn’t stood still, as much as I wanted it to.  I take care of the kids, the house, the pets; I live my life; I keep moving forward; just, sometimes, I want a day to remember a life that was so extraordinarily important that he left a mark on my life without ever living IN it; who’s tiny footprint never touched the ground, but touched my heart; who’s sole purpose, as far as I can see, was to come into my life to teach me that sometimes love means letting go and trusting that God not only knows what He’s doing, but that He’ll fill the hole that was left behind.

Shouldn’t a life that important be counted?

I miss you, Christopher Scott.  Now, forever, and always.

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Failing Beautifully

This morning I awoke to the sound of yelling and a tiny human hitting me in the head.  For the next 3 hours, all of my thoughts were punctuated by the words “I want”, “Mom”, and “Why”; and anytime I sat down for even a fraction of a second, I had one or more of the boys clamoring for my attention, or more so, for my ability to do something for them.  This was all before I’d been able to even have a cup of HOT coffee.

Not for the first time, I checked the user agreements on Craigslist and Ebay to see if, at the very least, it was at all possible to time share my kids.  I mean, there HAS to be a wonderful couple out there that wants to experience parenthood, without all the muss and fuss of pregnancy, labor and delivery, right?  This could be their answer!  But, alas, apparently when you try to get rid of your children- even if only for a little while- the words “abuse” and “child endangerment” are thrown around.  Sheesh.

The thing is, I know I’m not a bad mom (even if the oldest boy thinks so when I nix his plans for a Friday night).  I love my boys- more than any human on the planet could love another.  I just have days where I want to run away.  That’s all.

Or, at the very least, hunt down the creators of Taratabong and Tilly Knock Knock and…

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Well, we’ll just leave it at that.

Today (ok, yesterday, too) has just been a long, exhausting day filled with WAY too many moments that stressed me out, crushed my patience, and all but pulverized the tiniest fragments of sanity that I have left.  I’ve yelled, threatened, and probably made some terrifying faces during the course of it all (no mirror was around for me to see for sure, thank God), but I’m still a good mom, and its important that I say that.

Because everywhere you look today, everyone (including some well meaning Christian sites), will unitentionally tell you that if you’re a GOOD mom, then you won’t lose your cool.  That if you’re a GOOD mom, you’ll find a kinder way to get your point across.  If you’re a GOOD mom, a harsh word will never cross your lips.  That GOOD moms are always able to step away, count to 10, breathe deep, and then respond to the mattter at hand.  That GOOD moms will always find a way to keep a level head.

The problem is, all this talk about what a good mom does or doesn’t do, can leave a struggling mom thats having a rough go of it and barely hanging on, feel even worse- because her teenager was giving her an attitude and she was baited into arguing back; she allowed her kids more than the recommended time on the computer one *ahem* every *cough* day so that she could have a few moments to herself; or that time she was SO TIRED of hearing her name being called (“mom”-because what other name SHOULD she have?), that she snapped at her 3 year old that just wanted to show her something “cool”.

I’m a good mom.  Good doesn’t mean “perfect”, but the last time I checked, nobody I know could turn water into wine or feed a small army with just the lunch of a small boy.

Trust me.  I checked.  Those 2 miracles would come in REALLY handy around here.

Yep.  I’m a good mom.  I yell, I fight, I argue, I threaten, I bribe, and I blackmail when the situation calls for it, but I also love my family with a love that can’t be measured.  If you aren’t perfect, you aren’t alone.  You’re still a good mom, too.  I’ve been told that God doesn’t give us more than we can handle, and -shocker- he also knew LONG before we had these kids that at times we’d suck hard & fail miserably- and, yet, here we are.  Failing beautifully.

We’re still good moms.  God thinks so, too- even if we DO look for loopholes on EBay occasionally.

Of Motherhood and Monsters

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(Image courtesy of www.medicaldaily.com)

Motherhood.  Hard doesn’t really begin to describe it, does it?  Yet, that’s the blanket statement I use when words fail to adequately describe the level of difficulty something is.  Like,”My 10 year old’s math homework is hard“.  I guess I could also say,”My 10 year old’s math homework stumps me because its been 26 years since I’ve done it, and I’m pretty sure they’ve changed the rules since then”, but I’ve got things to do.

Being a mom is like being given a monumental job, but you’re denied resources, directions, equipment, and even additional help at times, all while being told every step of the way that you’re doing it wrong; given “advice”; told by 1000 different people 1000 different ways to handle every.  single.  challenge you face while completing the job; and still being expected to juggle all your other daily responsibilities.

And did I mention that the average completion time of said job is roughly 18 years, give or take?

It seems nearly impossible, and yet, with all the adults running around- some even having tiny humans themselves- it apparently is not.

It leads me to wonder, though, why more of the older generation doesn’t warn the newbies more.  They’ll wax nostalgic about all the good times, but they’ll leave out the teething years- where NOTHING helps; they’ll conveniently leave out the story about the time when they were sick with a sick 5 year old, but instead of taking care of themselves, they had to deal with throw up on ALL THE THINGS while trying to keep from throwing up themselves.  Memories of “cuddly babies with the new baby smell” abound, while they fail to mention that the ACTUAL new baby smell is akin to a sewage treatment plant.

Just once, I wish that someone had told me (before I had my first): “Once he’s born, hold tight to him, but not so tight that you aren’t willing to take a break for yourself, because you’re going to be bone-tired soon.  Like, the kind of tired that swallows you whole; where you feel like you’ve been running forever without rest and without an end in sight.  Enjoy the sweet coos, because all too soon, they’ll be replaced by the harsh words of an angry teen, and they’ll say things that will hurt you, and you to them, and in the middle of the night you’ll cry yourself to sleep thinking about how you failed that day.

Don’t rush to get them to walk, because soon enough, they’ll be all over the place, whether you want it or not.  Enjoy the inactivity- one day your calendar will be filled, but it won’t be overflowing with YOUR social engagements.”

Yep.  I would’ve respected an individual who had told me that.

Today, I got told off by a toddler because I wasn’t playing pretend to his standards.

Just let that sink in for a moment.

I listened to a 2 1/2 year old scream at me because my imagination wasn’t in sync with his.

I also answered a slew of questions, most of which I had to Google- although, next time I might just make up the answers.

Scratch that. I don’t want my child to get funny looks when he explains that you can’t see the stars during the day because they’re cosmic ninjas.

I attempted to mop the floors 5 times before remembering that I have boys.

I’ve dealt with 5,022 fights…5,023…5,024, and that’s just within the last hour.

And I’ve watched as a toddler fought naptime harder than any boxer has fought an opponent.

I’ve had people tell me that “at least, as a stay at home mom, you get the occasional break.  You don’t have a boss breathing down your neck, making sure you’re always working”, and, to a degree, they’re right.  I don’t ever have the fear of being fired (though, I think my hubby fears I’ll quit one day), but can I tell you something?

I’m a runner, or at least, I pretend to be when all the stars align, and I’m able to get in a run; and I remember saying once that I don’t need to schedule rest days because something always seems to come up that keeps me from running anyway.  And I had someone tell me that having to take a rest day because something came up- that ultimately didn’t let my body rest and recover- WASN’T a rest day.

I’ve figured out that the same goes for all the “rest” periods I face throughout the day as a stay at home mom:

  • Naptimes are where I catch up on cleaning.
  • BRIEF moments when he’s actually paying attention to a cartoon- again, spent cleaning.
  • Bathroom breaks are, well, for going to the bathroom.
  • Even the RARE moments when I might get to watch something other than a kids’ show are spent holding a kid, building towers to be knocked down, answering questions, or playing make-believe.

I’ve also heard that each day you should try and get in at least 15 minutes to yourself, but to that I have 2 questions: when, and in what universe is 15 minutes considered enough time to recharge?

But, the “hard” part is, we as moms are expected to do it all, and God knows, I’ve tried.

I’m a mom to 4 boys with 4 different levels of neediness and difficulty; a wife to a man that works 5 days a week from before the sun comes up to an hour or so before the boys go to bed; a runner when life allows; a team mom; a pet owner; a caretaker of a home that never stays clean; a cook; a chauffer; a referee; and an owner of mass quantities of mom guilt that screams I’m never enough.

On some level I know that my boys won’t need therapy in the future because their childhood wasn’t magical, complete with organic snacks, homemade costumes, a full activity schedule, and a tree house in a large oak tree, but that still doesn’t stop me from figuring out the financial costs and logistics of having a large oak transplanted into our yard.

Yes.  Motherhood is an amazing blessing, and I marvel at each new and wondrous thing my boys learn- like flushing the toilet.

Just kidding.

They still haven’t mastered that.

I stand in awe that God entrusted me- ME! the girl who has a black thumb- to care for 4 miraculous individuals.

But don’t be fooled.  Motherhood is hard.  So hard that words fail, and your mind apparently blocks it out as you grow older.

So, could we all just promise to do this one thing?  The next time you see that frazzled mom- you know the one- holding a screaming toddler, arguing with a defiant Kindergartner, and getting yelled at by an older kid, could we all just PLEASE not stare wistfully at that mom, telling them to “enjoy it while it lasts” because “it goes by so quickly”?  Because, honestly, it doesn’t feel like a fleeting moment when you’re in the trenches.

Could we maybe instead offer up something ACTUALLY helpful?  Maybe help to push their cart to their car?  Or- if you know the mom- offer to watch the kids for an hour so the mom can get a coffee and decompress?  Or, heck, maybe we could just smile and say,”Kids can be jerks.  Ya know, there was a time…”, and talk about our own battle stories.  Anything to let that mom know that she isn’t alone, because loneliness is scary and dark, and its where the monsters hide.  Monsters that claw at our nerves; maul our confidence; laugh at our worries; and scream every fear imaginable until it echoes in our minds every waking hour.

Motherhood is “hard”, but when you know you have people supporting you, you’ll make it out alive; and maybe one day, you’ll be able to be there for another mom going through the same thing.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Smart Toys, huh?

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Whoever thought that it was a smart idea to make loud, obnoxious toys for toddlers, never had kids themselves.

Probably the same people who made clothes for kids…

…another topic for another day.

Seriously, though, toddlers can’t speak in full sentences yet, can barely walk, and don’t yet have a full grasp on depth of perception, much less fiction vs. reality, sooooooo…..

YEAH!  Let’s give them a talking doll that laughs, all the while rolling around on the ground like its possessed!

Needless to say, Tickle Me Elmo didn’t tickle Nicholas pink when he was younger.  He basically screamed and threw it on the floor, after which he eyed Corey and me suspiciously like we were Satan’s helpers.

Close.  We’re SANTA’S helpers.

I learned then that I needed to take him with me when we went toy shopping and stealthily sneak it into the cart when he wasn’t looking if the toy passed the Toddler Test- i.e., didn’t make him pee his pants in terror.

Listen,  I’m all for the holly and the jolly.  I love Christmas and all the things Christmas-y.  But can someone tell me why it is that during this most-wonderful-of-seasons, someone didn’t stop to think that MAYBE a toy that jumps, bounces, laughs maniac-ly, and/or chases after you while doing all of the above doesn’t EXACTLY scream Christmas spirit?

And let’s not forget what I’ve mentioned before- when some toys start to run out of batteries, they can sometimes become possessed.  The last thing I want as a parent is to walk into the boys’ bedroom in the middle of the night to check on them and have Elmo standing there, cackling like a mad man.

Just a simple musing from a SortaSuperMom while you’re out Christmas shopping for your little hooligans- or, maybe you’d want to give that instead of coal…?

Counting Kids

How many kids do you have?

Its been 5 years and I STILL don’t know how to answer that question.

Such a simple question- unless you’ve lost a child- and it really doesn’t matter at what stage you lost them, too.  In any case, they were, and then -suddenly- they weren’t.  Does it REALLY matter if 2 of mine never lived outside of the womb?  Does that mean I loved them less?

Sometimes I get jealous of the moms that can answer that question with ease.  They tick off the names of their kids on their fingers, as if checking off a list.  Its so simple for them- all their kids are standing in front of them- or running around like midget insane asylum patients.  In any case, its not an issue for them as they count all their kids.  For moms that have lost a baby, though, we have the option of either going into detail (which can be akin to picking at a scab), or naming off all but the ones we lost, carrying with that the mom guilt of not acknowledging the life- however brief- of one of our own children.

Moms of miscarried or stillborn babies, though, we’ve got a club all our own.  We had a “non-baby”. a baby that didn’t live long enough to “count”.  Since we never had to stay up late with those babies, kiss their boo boos, deal with colic, worry about fevers, laugh at their antics, etc., our babies don’t “count” in the eyes of many.  Sure people will say they’re sorry for our loss initially, but after a while, people feel we need to “get over it”.  They tell us to “look at the bright side” or -if we had kids after the one we lost- they remind us that we wouldn’t have the ones we have now if our other baby had survived. 

Don’t they know we know that?  That every time we mourn the loss of our baby, we get to feel a stabbing pain of guilt because its like we’re saying we wish we had one over the other?  That when we’re having a truly happy moment with our babies we have now, that a thought of our angel babies can enter our mind and it feels like a betrayal?  And then we feel bad for feeling bad?

We aren’t wishing we had one over the other, though; we’re just wishing that there could have been a way we could have had them both.  We know “everything happens for a reason”- it was our mantra in the heartbreaking days and weeks and months after, but despite staring into the eyes of our sweet little kids on Earth, we’re still trying desperately to understand the reason behind our losses.  We tell ourselves that our new baby might have the cure to cancer or bring about world peace, but then we begin to wonder what the world lost when our others passed -or does that mean that their life wouldn’t have amounted to as much?

See, each pregnancy starts off the same: you see the “+” sign and you realize you’re carrying another life.  If its happy news, you start imagining what he (or she!) will look like, who they’ll be, what kind of addition they’ll make to your family, how your life will change-

And that’s where -I think- our little club has it a little worse in some ways.  Our babies never even had a chance.  We never got to experience their personalities; they never found their nitch in our family tree; and, if you lost them early on, there’s even a question about who they looked like.  The only question you got the answer to was how your life would change, but now you have a lifetime’s worth of “what ifs” to replace that one question.

I think its time that people recognize any loss of life as a loss equal to any other.  It shouldn’t be made light of simply because the rest of the world never met our babies.  The fact of the matter is, WE did.  We had hopes and dreams for them and visions of their futures; we grew physically and emotionally with the anticipation of what was to come; we saw them squiggle and squirm on the ultrasound and joked about paying them back for all the heartburn and nausea; we felt them kick and just KNEW they’d have a lucrative career in soccer.

Shouldn’t that count for something?

Shouldn’t it be normal to acknowledge their due date or the date we had to let them go?

Shouldn’t we be able to count and celebrate their Heavenly birthdays without being told with words and looks that we should move on?

We ARE moving on.  We know time hasn’t stood still, as much as we might have wanted it to.  We go to work, we take care of our other kids, live our lives, and keep moving forward; just, sometimes, we want to take a day to remember and count a life that was so extraordinarily important that they left a mark on our lives without living in them; who’s tiny footprints never touched the ground but they touched our hearts; who’s soul purpose was to come into our lives to teach us that sometimes love means letting go and trusting that God not only knows what He’s doing, but that He’ll fill that hole that was left.

Shouldn’t a life that important be counted?

 

I will remember you…

How am I going to be remembered? What will I be leaving behind? What would people post about me on Facebook if I was no longer here?

More often than not, we work hard in this world for things that won’t last. We chase things that don’t matter; get mad over things that we shouldn’t; spend our money and our time on things that we’ll forget about a week, a month or a year from now. I’m not about to step up on a soapbox because I’m guilty of it, too. I spent a while the other day playing a game on Facebook, trying to win a particular item- time I’ll never get back for an item I’ll never actually hold in my hands. I’m not saying playing games is bad, but what amount and time and effort do we REALLY put into the things that REALLY matter? Our family? Our Friends? Our faith?

My husband’s grandpa passed away a couple of nights ago. I’ve been holding it together pretty nicely, but to be honest, I’m hurting a lot. I never looked at him as “my grandpa in law” or even “my husband’s grandpa”. It was almost like -from the moment we met- his grandparents became mine. They’ve always just been grampa and gramma. Now, as of a couple of nights ago, I no longer have a living grampa. Its hard.

I feel blessed to have had the chance to get to know him. He was a great man. He gave great hugs, knew how to laugh, and he LOVED his family. You could tell. It didn’t matter if you were born into it, friended into it, married into it- you were family, and he made it clear that he loved you.

I enjoyed hanging out with him. Lots of people know that I cook, but grampa and gramma- they knew I LOVE it. Grampa and I would talk about food and cookbooks, my boys, the family- he never feigned an interest. He was always RIGHT THERE when you were talking to him. He made you feel special.

Going on Facebook now- its almost lie a virtual memorial for him. All my husband’s family members have been posting pictures, going over memories- its not bad, though. It just left me thinking.

THIS is what I want. I want to make an impact on those that surround me. I want to live a life that -when I’m gone- although there will be a void (or so I hope), those that I loved will be able to fill it with memories and rememberances of their time spent with me. I want to make a differences. I don’t just want to be a place holder; I want to be someone who was special enough to have had a place saved for them.

Like Grampa.

Have yourself a Scary Little Christmas

*Before I write this post, I’d just like to apologize for falling off the face of the blog-o-sphere.  Its been crazy, hectic, and altogether nuts here at Boystown.  Its been a tad difficult to write with this Nicholas shaped growth I have that’s been attached to me as of late.  Hopefully the start of the New Year will bring some regular downtime for me to get back to it.*

I would just like to state- for the record- that growing up has ruined Christmas for me.

It used to be that a Christmas gift from the heart consisted of pasting some macaroni to a piece of construction paper with the words ‘Merry Christmas’ scribbled across the front.

Or my personal favorite- the coupon book. You know the one. The one where you wrote oh-so-many coupons that had favors written on the inside like ‘one free breakfast’. The receiver would then tear it out and give it back to you when they wanted their free meal. I think it took me a total of 15 minutes to make one for everyone I had to give gifts to.

For 2 weeks after payday I scoured the stores searching for “the perfect gift” for everyone on my mile long list.

I finished the sequel to “Amber Soto and the Temple of the Forbidden Aisle” 2 days ago after nearly going Kung Fu Panda on a family that thought “lines” were merely a suggestion for them, not the rule for humanity.

That’s another thing. Remember how your list of people to give to was small enough to fit on a post-it note? Now it takes a 3 ring binder full of paper.

You can see all the poor souls demonstrating my point as they wander with a glazed look trying to find the latest craze that the media has decided to punch up for this year. Sure the item- all the commercials are clamering about- has been around for the past year… but now its new and improved! The green button is now blue! These poor individuals wander the aisles ready to pounce on the coveted item the second should a basket be left unattended for 3 seconds- with 50 sheets worth of names to buy for… and only half crossed off.

No, I’m not the Amber Who Stole Christmas- of course, if I DID steal it, it was because it was left in the basket by itself for more than 3 seconds.

No, I just experienced the joy that comes before the joy of giving- the joy of waiting in lines so long that I promised a 5 year old I’d give him presents if he’d be still for the wait. Nevermind that on Dec. 26th I’ll be able to open my OWN toy store with how many toys all 3 boys will have.

The things frustrated parents do.

I remember when I never worried about what to buy people. Not just because I didn’t have money, but because it didn’t seem as big a deal. I used to try to find out what I was getting before Christmas because I was nosy- now its because I need to know what I’m up against.

How much do I need to spend on this person so that I don’t seem like a Cheapskate?

Nope. Christmas has gone over to the dark side, my friends.

We can’t even call it Christmas anymore- a friend of mine talked about his experience with that. Christmas has turned into Xmas.

I want to turn back time. I want to be excited about Christmas. I want to believe in Santa and write him letters. I want to leave out milk and cookies on Christmas Eve and see them gone in the morning- all the while thinking he ate them. I want to give a present that I think is cool without being worried that its not as expensive as the one I’ve just gotten. I want to believe that the smiles I see on peoples’ faces are happy ones- not ones that come from losing it.

And most of all, I want to NEVER again set foot in a shopping center the week before Christmas.

What?  Too much to ask?

 

Tasty Tuesday #4: Pot Roast

Have I mentioned that I LOVE this time of year?  Cuz I do.

In the Summer, it sucks.  I live here in California where we have 1 season- Summer.  Sure, we might refer to it as different things throughout the year- Fall, Spring, whatever- but the fact of the matter is, we have ONE season.

Well, except at certain times during “Winter”.  Sometimes, when the Summer has been particularly horrific, Winter will come on with a vengence- I think, because it helps keep a balance.  But I’m ok with that.  In the Summertime, you can only take off so much clothing to get cool before you’re naked (and that doesn’t work very well when you’re at a park… which is what you DO in the Summer.  You go places.).

But in the Winter- ahhh.  Its lovely.  Once Summer’s flame dies down, and you start to feel that nip in the air, you can pile on as many hats, sweaters, mittens, scarves, etc. to keep warm.

And you can eat tasty warm food.  Like soups, stews, and roasts.

This week’s Tasty Tuesday is one of my FAVORITE Winter time meals.  Well, actually, it works well for any time of the year, but it just fits so well during those two days when Summer has decided to fool us into believing its gone until next year; all the while, its lying in wait until our guard is down and we’ve bundled up the kids in toasty outfits… and then pops out, springing 90 degree temps on us again.

But, I digress.  Here’s a meal for those few cool days (for us poor SoCal natives).  And for the rest of you who know what Winter REALLY is, hope this warms you to your toes.

Pot Roast

1 3-4lb. boneless chuck roast

1 tsp steak seasoning

1 tsp garlic powder

1 tsp salt

1 tsp black pepper

2 tbsp. veg. oil

2 med. onions, cut into wedges

4-5 med. potatoes, quartered (I put 4 or 5, but honestly, when it comes to the veg, you can do as little or as much as you want- within reason.)

4-5 med. carrots, thick chunks

3 cloves garlic, minced

2 bay leaves

1 can mushroom soup

1/4 cup red wine (what kind?  Whatever you’d like to drink.  I found some 2 buck chuck that tasted good and it worked well, so do what pleases you.  You can replace the wine with beef broth if you just really don’t like wine, but it honestly tastes better with it, and you won’t taste a WINE flavor, just a rich flavor.)

2 tbsp. Worchestershire

1 tbsp. beef bouillon

3/4 cup water + extra to keep roast saucy

Add steak seasoning, garlic powder, salt, and black pepper to a small bowl; rub onto the roast.

Put all the veg and the bay leaves in a roasting pan big enough for everything.

Heat oil in large skillet and brown the roast on all sides.  MAKE SURE the skillet is big enough and hot enough.  If the skillet is too small, it could just steam the roast, and if the skillet isn’t hot enough, the roast won’t develop a crust- and a crust is good.  Brown is tasty.  We like brown.

Once BROWNED, put the roast on top of the veg.

Add onions and garlic to the pan the roast had browned in to absorb the juices (1-2 minutes).  Pour over the roast.

Combine soup, wine (or broth), worchestershire, and beef bouillon  into a bowl.  Mix well and pour over the roast.  Add water to roasting pan.

Cover pan with foil and roast for 3-3 1/2 hours, or until tender.

*Check every hour or so to see if the roast needs more liquid.  If so, add 1/2 cup of water.

Once finished, discard bay leaves and let roast sit for 15 minutes or so to allow the juices to redistribute.

Enjoy!

Tasty Tuesday #3: Pumpkin Cheesecake

Oh, how I love this time of year.

There’s something inspiring about this time of year- inspiration for doing good things for others; inspiration for family togetherness ideas; and -one of MY favorites- recipe inspirations!

One of my favorite restaurants is The Cheesecake Factory, and EVERY year, I wait with anticipation for their Pumpkin Cheesecake.  Yes, I know- I’m wasting a little bit of my kiddos’ college funds every time I spend the $8+ on a single slice of this amazing dessert, but it just always seemed so worth it… until I made it myself.  Now, I’m trying REALLY hard to figure out why I would ever do such a thing.  Here’s the recipe and let me know if you agree:

Pumpkin Cheesecake

Crust

about 8 CINNAMON graham crackers, broken up

1/4 cup pecans

5 tbsp butter, melted

1/4  cup sugar

cooking spray

Filling

24 oz cream cheese

1 cup sugar

3 tbsp flour

1 tsp vanilla

5 large eggs

3/4 tsp cinnamon

1/4 tsp allspice

1/4 tsp ground ginger

1/4 tsp nutmeg

1 (15 oz) can pumpkin puree (or fresh pumpkin- recipe to follow)

1 cup sour cream

Directions

***8 HOURS before you plan on making this, let the cream cheese, sour cream, and eggs sit out.  This will ensure that they are the proper temp.***

Preheat oven to 350 degrees(F).  Coat a 9 in. springform pan with cooking spray.

Combine the graham crackers, butter, sugar, and pecans in a food processor and pulse until they’re fine crumbs.  If you don’t have a food processor, try to crush the crackers and pecans as fine as possible before mixing with the butter and sugar.

Pat the mixture into the bottom and partway up the sides of the pan.  If you have a measuring cup nearby, it works really well for helping to spread things evenly across the bottom and up the sides.  Bake for 7-10 minutes and let cool.  Once cool, wrap the pan in a sheet of 18 in. foil (the pan will be placed in a water bath, so this will keep the water out of your cheesecake).

Reduce oven temp to 300-325 (depending on whether or not your oven is as wacked out as mine is).

Mix the cream cheese and sugar until its smooth.  Scrape the bowl and add the flour; mix until combined.  Add vanilla; mix until combined.  And one egg at a time, beating after each until combined.  Add spices; mix til combined.  Add sour cream; mix til combined.  Scrape the bowl to ensure everything is mixed together well, add pumpkin and -you got it- mix until combined.

Pour filling into the cooled crust.

Place pan in a 9×13 baking pan; pour water in til it reaches half way up the side of the cake pan.  Place in the center of the oven and do NOT open the oven for the first hour.  When the timer goes off, check to see that the cheesecake is doing ok (it should be starting to turn a golden brown on top) and bake for another 10-15 minutes.  The cake will still be a bit wobbly, but it will set with time.  Cool and then refrigerate at least overnight.

Yes- overnight.  You can smell it; you can look at it- but DON’T touch it for roughly 8 hours.

This cheesecake isn’t hard, but its time consuming when you take into account the wait times… but its SO worth it.

When you’re ready to serve, do your best to not eat it straight out of the pan.  Garnish with whipped cream and candied pecans… and a fork.  Or a spoon.

Or, if you’re like me, wait until everyone is gone and just pick up a slice and eat it.

Pumpkin Puree

Like everything else, the only reason most people buy canned puree is for the convenience, but -if you encountered the same issue I had (where the stores looked at you like you were weird for wanting raw pumpkin)- this recipe really isn’t all that hard either.

You’ll need:

a baking pumpkin (if your store is -once again- odd like mine, you can use a butternut squash -which is what most canned purees are made from anyways- or your kid’s jack ‘o’ lantern… if it isn’t too large.  The larger the pumpkin, the more fibrous and less sweet it will be.  You don’t want one TOO SMALL, though- you need to be able to make at least 15 oz of puree for the cheesecake.)  And butter.  You’ll need a bit ‘o’ melted butter.

Preheat oven to 375 degrees.

Wash the outside of the pumpkin to get off most of the visible dirt.  You won’t be eating the outside, but the last thing you want is to cut into the pumpkin and get dirt into the inside.

Cut the pumpkin into quarters and scrape out all the gushy stuff.  Yes, that’s a technical term.  Save the seeds, though- you can always make roasted pumpkin seeds later.

Coat the fleshy part of the pumpkin with the butter and place face side down on a baking sheet that has been wrapped with foil.

Place in the oven for 45 minutes-1 hour.  Check on it after 30 minutes just to see where its at, though (because, once again, if your oven is wacked like mine, the last thing you want is to ruin your pumpkin).  After 45 minutes, if a knife can slide in EXTREMELY easily, its done.  Let it cool, and then scrape out the insides.  Mash with a potato masher or  -my suggestion?- a food processor or a ricer.  Use a cheese cloth (or a tea towel you don’t care about) and try to get as much of the liquid out as possible.

Tada!  You’re done.  You can use this for the cheesecake or -as I found out- very nutritious baby food. (The Mini-Master will attest that it was muy bueno).  And just think- you’ll never again have to watch your kiddos’ jack ‘o’ lanterns rotting away… just turn them into puree Nov. 1st!

Birthday Parties and You- Part 1: Keeping up with the Jones’

Its October.

Mini-Master’s 1st birthday isn’t for almost 3 months.

However, on the hallowed ground of birthday land, I’ve broken the first cardinal rule:

  • Start planning for the first birthday the day you conceive.

People have asked me what we’re doing for the big 0-1, but sometimes (not always, mind you, but SOMEtimes) I think its so they can brag about what they did for their kids’ first or to inform me of what they DO have planned.

In a way, I think all this worry about first birthdays is kind of funny.  Its not like they now have the ability to get their driver’s licenses, the ability to vote, to rent a car, drink, move out…  First birthday’s aren’t for the kids.  You don’t hear babies down in the sandbox comparing first b-days and chastising each other because of a lack of bouncers, bands, and

*shudder*

clowns.

Nope, 1st birthdays are for the parents, family, and friends- to celebrate the day their lives suddenly became governed by another ruler.  Yay for the first year of dictatorship!

So, I guess it shouldn’t surprise me that people are shocked that I don’t have anything planned.  Its not that I don’t care, though- its that I’m overwhelmed.

Suddenly, its high school all over again, and I’m the only one without a Dooney and Burke bag.  How do you tell people that you’re planning on making the cake when they ordered theirs from an upscale bakery 6 months ago?  How do you tell people you don’t have a theme when they’ve not only decided on a theme, but found “just the cutest little invitations that so completely match the decor”?

My WEDDING was back yard pot luck style, but now I’m starting to question whether or not I’m insane for not picking a venue with full catering service.

I should probably know by now that none of this matters.  I’ve been here twice before.  Cameron isn’t in therapy because he has regrets over a less than extravagant first birthday bash, and Jacob hasn’t mentioned that he feels something is missing from his life because we didn’t party like its 1999 at his.

But when I go to parties where bouncers big and small grace the lawns; where cakes have monogrammed faces of the birthday kid; where every detail has been covered- down to what the guests are wearing… well, I start to feel like a bad parent and woefully inadequate.

True, I shouldn’t have to try and keep up with all the birthday expectations, but its still quite tempting to do so when everyone is telling the host or hostess,”Such a great party- I especially loved the elephant ride and the petting zoo!”  I know bouncers don’t buy happiness, but I find it to be a completely worthwhile attempt.

So, here’s my goal: a great 1st birthday for the Mini-Master.  I don’t recommend “following the crowd” for everyone, but if you choose to, here are some sites I’ll be checking out.  If you have some suggestions or pictures of YOUR greatest birthday bashes, then let me know- asoto0703 (at) gmail (dot) com.  I’d love to see/ hear about them.  Maybe I’ll show off your idea on here or my Facebook site… giving you ALL the credit, of course.

So, that’s it.  I’ll post periodic updates on Operation Rockin’ 1st and, hopefully, when this finally takes place, I’ll have an amazing post with pictures.

Wish me luck!