Tuesday, December 20, 2011

The First Commandment of Motherhood

I’ve tried very hard to create structure and healthy living in my home; having a plan for the kale in my fridge makes me feel like a good mom. My children have routine meal and snack times, and they are always seated at the table. It gives us a chance for face time and also keeps the house less dirty. The majority of their food is homemade, organic, humanely raise, and if possible, local. While it is my deepest desire to make this a lifestyle, I don’t want to be the crazy crunchy mom that doesn’t let her children go to birthday parties because they may ingest corn syrup. At some point, our lives have to be worth living.

Sunshine has a terrible cold. The poor baby was up all night and miserable. When she woke up, she was in no mood for eggs with spinach or a bowl of steel-cut oats. We compromised on dry cereal and frozen raspberries. While getting out the berries, I saw that Mr. Responsibility had brought home ice cream. “Sunshine! Look what we have. If you do a good job of eating your meals and snacks today, you can have some ice cream!” Her feverish face lit up and she smiled.

As usual, I finished my food first and excused myself from the table while Baldilocks and The Jungle Kid made finger paints out of the raspberries. Bound and Determined Mom got down to work. After a while, a small voice piped up, “I’m all done.” Sunshine had brought her plate to me at the sink, and she had finished every morsel. “Wow! Look at that! Do you want more?” I said with excitement.

Sunshine looked at me. Her newly freckled skin and enormous blue eyes were so sweet and hopeful. The purple circles under those eyes and the mop of yet to be brushed hair made her look like Olivia Twist. “Mommy, I’m all done with that. I…I want my ice cream.”

The cosmos swirled; stars crashed and collapsed. The unified voice of thousands upon thousands of mothers from all time chanted the first commandment of motherhood in my head: Thou shalt not have ice cream before lunch time! Thou shalt not have ice cream before lunch time!” This is a slippery slope. If you give the child ice cream after breakfast, she will expect it. Then, there will be more lazy parenting in the future. Soon the ice cream will be cheap ice cream that’s made by whipping Crisco with corn syrup and Red Dye 40. The mothers spoke again, “You are one decision away from falling into the pit. One false move and you’ll be smacking them with fly swatters and buying economy packs of Slim Jims.”

“Mommy?” Sunshine was standing before me. Her pale little face had a tight frown and her chin was quivering. Her deep breaths were all in an effort not to cry. It was simply a misunderstanding, and her little spirit was crushed. She didn’t want to eat her breakfast, but she had stuffed it down just so she could have a taste of ice cream. She’d earned it, and now the big person was reneging on her end of the bargain so she could be like June Cleaver. Her tears made little wet spots on my jeans.

“Well, it does have peanut butter in it, so I guess it will be okay this one time.” Cool mom dusted conventional wisdom off of her shoulder like dandruff and dished up some ice cream for all of the children. All would be well. Sunshine’s little spirit puffed up, and there were no problems with wiping faces, brushing teeth, or combing hair today. It’s going to be a good day, though I will admit to having a hankering for some kind of spicy “meat-like food” at room temperature.

Sunday, December 18, 2011

My Cheeeeldren Are too Skeeeeny

As a child, my Ukrainian grandmother, Baba, was always trying to feed us. By “feed”, I don’t mean give balanced and moderate meals, I mean make us "real chaaaabby" and happy. You never know how hard a winter will be. When we would arrive at her house, there was every kind of goodie imaginable, especially ones my mother never gave us. Her purse was full of Luden’s Cherry cough drops (no medicine, just pieces of cherry candy with cocaine-like addictiveness) and Freedent gum, the freezer bursting with Jello Pudding pops, cabinets loaded with Honey Combs, and jars of Snickers bars. When we were all about two sugary bites from barfing, she would stop basting the roast long enough to look at us and the wrappers on her floor and yell, “Yooooooy! No more fiflikeh! Ged oudda here! Go outside and play!” Minutes later she would call us to a dinner full of beef roast, potatoes, cabbage, and bread with sour cream and gravy on it all. When we slowed down for a moment to breathe, she would beg us, “Eat! Eat! You’re too skeeeeny!” I love my Baba.

Sunshine and Baldilocks are sometimes required to go to the doctor for extra appointments. The first is not my fault; it’s Mr. Responsibility’s…or should I say, Mr. Cranium’s. Both of our children have had to go in for “head” checks to make sure that they don’t have some sort of abnormality. I learned quickly to send the child with her father so the doctor would understand that this is genetic. The sheer size in combination with slender necks and glowing pale skin can only be described as light bulb-esque.

The other appointment is for weight checks. My once cherubic babies have both slimmed down to mere sprites, and I’m the worst mother of Ukrainian descent ever. When this first became an issue, the doctor (who had three pamphlets warning of childhood obesity hanging on the wall) had to dig to the very back of the file cabinet to help me figure out what to do. On the way home, Ukrainian mom stopped at the store and loaded up on every fatty and nutritious item she could find: sour cream, cream to spike the milk, peanut butter, bananas, ice cream, and, (crunchy/healthy mom shudders) canned spaghetti and meatballs. Ukrainian Mom made and tried to tempt Sunshine with it all. There were mashed potatoes and gravy, smoothies, hamburgers, and macaroni and cheese. The child ate two olives and an eighth of a tomato with ketchup. Total failure.

Baldilocks is not quite as picky, but she is skinny nonetheless. I think this has mostly to do with the fact that her diet consists mostly of crayons, stickers, and board books (indestructible my badoot).

The thing that has surprised me most about the kids is their desire not for bland “kid” foods, but for highly flavorful foods. Sunshine eats her eggs with salsa and hot sauce while Baldilocks likes roasted squash with curry powder.

Though it mostly ends up on the floor, they have inspired my cooking. I leave you with one of their favorites:

Nachos with Homemade Hummus and Salsa

2 cans chick peas
¼ cup tahini (in the peanut butter aisle)
Juice from a fresh lemon
3 finely minced cloves of garlic
3-4 tbsp olive oil

Drain chick peas and reserve some of the liquid for later. Combine all of the ingredients (except lemon juice) in a food processor/blender and begin grinding. Add lemon juice, plenty of salt, with reserved liquid until consistency and taste are to your liking. If you want it very, very smooth, cook the chick peas for a few minutes prior to blending. Place in serving bowl, drizzle with olive oil, and sprinkle with paprika.

1 lb tomatoes
1 lb tomatillos (usually next to the tomatoes, green in color with papery covering)
2 cloves garlic
1 large onion
½-¾ cup fresh cilantro
2-4 jalapenos (remove seeds for reduced heat)
Juice of one lime

Chop all ingredients well and place in a large pot; salt to taste. Gently warm for a few minutes—don’t cook it, just get it warm so the ingredients will marry. Serve as is for very chunky salsa. For medium chunky, run half the batch through a blender. For uniform texture, blend the entire batch. Salsa can be frozen, but shake wildly to reincorporate once it’s thawed.

For the girl’s favorite treat, serve hummus and salsa with fresh nachos.

Saturday, December 10, 2011

Monkey Girl Feeds the Meter

As a short-waisted person, I’ve always hated high-waisted jeans. The waist to hip ratio is always off leaving me with either Hammer pants hips or a tourniquet above my belly button. On top of that, they are just a few pleats and tapered legs away from being the dreaded mom jean.

I've Still Got It Mom got up the other day and put on a pair of freshly washed, mid-rise jeans with a little stretch for a flattering fit. They were a little snug, but a layered shirt easily disguised any possible muffin top. A little makeup, a primping of the hair, and I gingerly descended the stairs to make a fabulous and nutritious breakfast. Kisses and pats on the head to the beautiful children and my handsome husband, and I went off tidying while humming a merry tune (June Cleaver peeked in the window green with envy).

Every bend and twist was made easy with my awesome and stylish pants, and it didn't take long for the waist to loosen, turning them into hot low-rise jeans, and making the old muffin top disappear. Soon the children came into play and Bio-Cave Mom not only caught a not-so-pleasant scent, but also knew exactly who made it. “Did someone make a stinky?” Mary Poppins Mom asked with a lilt in her voice. Quickly, I laid Baldilocks on a blanket on the floor and crouched down to get to work.

This is the point where the not-so-awesome stretch in my pants decided to take my formerly mid-rise pants straight past ultra low-rise to be-low rise. Trying not to offend the sensibilities of the children with my new plumber fashion, I tried to hike them up, but Baldilocks took the opportunity to plant her foot into her open and soiled diaper. Diaper Pro Mom made a stealthy entrance.

In the midst of our skirmish, my shirt started inching upwards and the effect was like the parting of the Red Sea. DP Mom tried in vain to wiggle the clothes back into place while keeping all of the bio-hazard contained to a small area. But then, there was a sensation.

A small, Jungle Kid sized hand planted itself on the middle of my back which was now exposed, and a narrow, cold object was being forcibly inserted into the plumber area. My shrieks, whoops, and wild wiggles just egged the little monkey on. Sunshine kicked back and rolled with laughter as I finished cleaning Baldilocks. Fast as lightening, I wheeled around, yanking up my pants, and found the Jungle Kid with a plastic tea saucer in position to feed the meter one more time. Oh, the humiliation of it all.

This event forever changed my view on several things. My heart and mind are now a little less judgmental towards high-waisted jeans. They may not look fabulous, but they are infinitely practical. Pairing them with a belt and a tucked in shirt may keep me safe from an unfortunate exposure.