Thursday, March 31, 2011

Long live the Queen

I have joked about the future wife of Prince William.  But I do pity her.  I'm not sure if Kate Middleton ever ponders what she's getting herself in to.  She's going to be Queen of England one day.  Every move she makes will be followed.  Every outfit scrutinized.  Every social engagement gossiped.  Heck, even her bowel movements will probably be recorded.  Who wants that job?  Because you know its there.  "I work at the palace." "Oh yeah, what do you do?" "I keep track of the Queen's BMs.  Got to make sure she's regular."

Okay, okay, probably not.  But she is going from a 'normal' British citizen to eventually becoming the most well known figure in England.  So, how do we as Americans celebrate that?  Make a commemorative doll, of course!  A wedding doll!  But why wait until the wedding?  The secret wedding.  Well, parts of it.  Namely the wedding gown.  Its a special one of a kind dress.  Now we all know that Kate doesn't get a say in any of it.  Just as Diana didn't (I'm guessing).  From the moment she and the Prince got engaged, she became a living paper doll.  So let's dress her up.  This advertisement got a huge laugh from me.  For so many reasons.  So I wanted to share it with you.

"We're going to make a doll.  That's the most American way we can show we approve of the marriage.  With tchotcke."
"We use words like 'museum quality' to trick you into validating the price"
"We want to remind everyone that she was a no one, but in a nice way.  We're calling her an 'enchanting commoner' because 'white trash' was both taken and distasteful."
"We have no idea what her wedding gown will look like, but if we had to guess, this gown from 5 years ago would definitely be it."
"We're going to remind you how secret the designs are so you'll think we're so clever later.  So clever that we think you'll pay $159 for something that may or may not look like the picture you see here."
"Advanced Reservations now being accepted" -- as though they weren't planning this all along.  And as though later you won't be able to buy one of the million they're making.

Making over priced crap to sell to commemorate an event is normal.  But to do it as a "this is what we will do most likely because we aren't even sure what we're talking about" pre-sale.  That's just genius.  Why?  Because people will buy it. You've got your credit cards out already.

Finding Nemo

Today I was out of ideas.  I couldn't think of anything.  So I decided to make Peanut and Bean a plain ol' sandwich.  They would be disappointed, but sometimes mama ain't got it.  When I went to grab a sandwich cutter, the top one was a fish.  Thus was created the chaos theory of bento lunches.  It isn't randomness.

Aquarium Bento -- Clown fish sandwich, "fish food" cinnamon pita chips, and various aquarium decorations -- sparkle rocks (jello), and pebbles (jelly beans) and fish feeder sticks (string cheese) 

Okay, I admit the string cheese is stretching the imagination, but they wanted cheese sticks.

Wednesday, March 30, 2011

The Ring Master Steps Up ...

Today we took the kids and had their pictures made by a professional photographer.  This is a lot like a three ring circus.  Clark Kent is the Ring Master.  The photographer is the Lion Tamer.  Wrangling four children to sit still, look the same way and smile at the same time is a trick of the eye.  Let me add that I was a bit stupid and got Little Frog his 2 month shots today just prior to the photo shoot.  Hey, I don’t claim to be the brightest crayon in the box, not by several shades. 

The Ring Master controls the children, and their reaction to the Lion Tamer.  It’s actually amazing to watch.  I stood there like a padawan watching a Jedi Master work.  He posed, he pacified, he acted like a buffoon to make them laugh.  Ring Master.  Amazing performer.  Clown.  These are all things that are required of great dads.  We survived.  They smiled, they laughed at Daddy, and the photographer captured their angelic nature.  It’s amazing how angelic children look in a still photograph.  You don’t see the crying, running around like crazy, screaming and general chaos that happens around that one moment of angelic grace.  I have great admiration for those crazy people with a bajillion kids, especially quintuplets or sextuplets or whatever they call those litters of children these days.  They are insane.  They like self punishment.  But to get all those precious children to look at the camera and hold still at the same time – that’s magic.  Or tranquilizers.  They might just have a Benadryl mist that they spray continuously into the photo studio.  And I’m sure that there’s lots of wine involved for the parents.  Or valium.  Or both.  I’ve often said that Mimosas and Bloody Marys were invented by stay at home moms.  Xanex was invented by moms of multiple kids.  Or people who watch Rachael Ray.  They might have invented it.

I love you Rachael.  But your voice is the leading cause of insanity in your hometown.  Look it up.  It’s got to be true.  I watch.  When the TV isn’t on Super Why.  For the first time today I pondered why the audience claps when she presents food.  Why?  Are we clapping because the food looks good?  We aren’t going to get any.  Are we clapping because she didn’t set the studio on fire?  I like to think that the audience is more like trained seals.  “See the food? See it? It looks so good doesn’t it? Smell the food. Yummy.  Clap for the food people! CLAP!” And they do.  They know they can’t have any.  They can barely see what’s going on.  They know it was prepared hours ago.  But they clap for it.  Hurray for “APPLAUSE” signs.  Turning people into seals.  All for Rachael.  I need some trained seals.  I already have the Ring Master.

Part of a balanced breakfast?

What does that even mean?  On the cereal commercials they always show their cereal with toast, fruit, milk and OJ.  "Part of a balanced breakfast" they say.  Does that mean that you have to eat the rest of that to counter the junk in the cereal?  Yeah, probably.  But I digress.  Today the girls have breakfast for lunch.

Breakfast Bento:  Blue & Red pancakes (just divided the batter and added food cololring -- instant fun), dried cereal, bacon and a frozen yogurt.  I also put syrup in a separate container. 

Tuesday, March 29, 2011

60 (or so) perfect teeth

Today I took the children to the dentist.  They cheered, they clapped, they shouted with joy.  Well, perhaps not that much excitement but it was close.  And why shouldn’t they?  Going to the dentist isn’t what it used to be.  I hated the dentist.  Dr. Jim Nyland.  That’s English for “evil, evil man with the personality of a pit viper”.  I hated everything -- the cleanings, the examination pokings with the long pointy metal things, and the fluoride.  God, I hated the fluoride.  Remember?  The big foam things coated with pink goop that smelled like Lysol and tasted worse.  They were the size of … well, looking back now, they sort of remind me of … nevermind, that’s gross.  Giant white cotton rolls.  Covered in goop.  Shoved in your tiny kid mouth with one set of instructions: Don’t swallow.   And he disappeared for days.  Well, 30 minutes, but when you’re six it seems like days.  Sitting there, holding that ridiculously small napkin thing as pink goopy drool ran everywhere that wasn’t the dinky napkin.  Remember now?  Oh yeah.  That was the dentist I had.  Not my kids though.  They might as well be going to the amusement park.  There are animals to look at (why do all dentist offices have to have fish tanks?), games to play and at the end everyone goes home with a prize! 

One thing hasn’t changed though. No matter how great the dentist is, he still speaks Chachingese.  I understand Chachingese, though I don’t like to.  It goes a little like this: “Well, Mom, Peanut’s teeth look great.  Of course, there’s a tooth that needs to be pulled and $$CHACHING$$ blah blah $$CHACHING$$ and her teeth are crowded so we want to think about early braces $$CHACHING$$ blah blah $$CHACHING$$ best for her now blah blah $$CHACHING$$.”  I am positive that’s what he actually said.  I heard it.  If there were other words in there, they were covered up by my future crying at me for the money the dentist had already spent with his Chachingese.  So, I gathered my things and took my wounded potential savings with me to go home and ponder how to save up for BABY TEETH BRACES.  Let me find a jar.

We have a lot of jars.  If there was a show on jar hoarding, Clark Kent and I would be on the first episode.  We have this compulsion to rinse and wash any form of jar that comes in the house.  Coffee cans, jelly jars, pickle jars, pasta sauce jars.  Anything with a lid.  It must be saved.  And I hide them.  In the laundry room cabinets, on the dryer, in the garage.  Jars.  They are my Precious.   I don’t need them, rarely use them, but I must have them.  All of them.  You’ll need a jar one day and think “Man, I wish I was cool.  Cool people save jars.”  Then my jar hoarding won’t seem so silly.  It will become the “in” thing.  Then I’ll be speaking my own Chachingese.

Monday, March 28, 2011

Napkins are like erasers for people!

As she was doing her homework tonight Bean asked me tonight, "Mom, are napkins like erasers for people?"  I laughed, and pondered it and agreed that yes, napkins are indeed erasers for our faces.  They take the nasty away.  Clever, clever Bean.

That was the last in a long list of amazing thoughts for today.  Today started out with a poopie diaper.  What's new?  I think half my day is filled with poop.  Poop that isn't mine.  And this was a beautiful gift at sunrise from Monkey Man.  Of course, we were out of diapers.  The diaper box must be made of lead, because Clark Kent didn't know we were out either.  So I dealt with poop only to be greeted by vomit.  The half of my day that isn't filled with poop is filled with vomit.  You are all jealous.  Jealous of my day of bodily functions that don't belong to me.  The special moment today was brought on by one of the dogs.  What I want to know is why he'll re-eat it?  Yeah, its gross.  The dog won't eat broccoli.  Or crackers, or soft tortillas.  But that which he previously ate that he's decorated the floor with?  Oh yeah.  That's the good stuff.

My morning was only saved by Little Frog.  Morning smiles.  There is very little that an almost-two-month-old can do to cheer someone up after all that has came from the orifices of the varied living creatures in this house.  But a smile that says "Oh yeah, I know you, you're mom" ... well, that just does it.  It makes things all better.  As better as pink milk.

Pink Milk is one of the "You're the best, Mom" drinks around here.  It validates my craziness.  Putting pink, crystallized, non-sugar junk into moo juice.  It makes the world a better place.  I'm pretty sure we could solve all world peace issues with Pink Milk.  Someone call the President.  I've got it figured out and no one knows.  It cures what ails you, makes you smile, and cures world peace.  I'm almost positive.

After morning smiles, Little Frog felt warm.  So I had to take his temperature.  Anyone with a newborn, or who has had a newborn, or a dog even, knows that this exercise is humiliating for all involved.  There's no dignified way to take a newborn's temperature.  Turn and cough.  May as well.  Its like that.  And then he didn't have a fever.  So the embarrassment on both our parts was all for nothing.  But we're closer now.  We've crossed that threshold of awkward moments.  Chalk it up there to the great moments like the moment I walk into his bedroom to check on him before bed a little too early when he's twelve.  Those types.  Then I can say "Oh get over yourself.  I shoved a thermometer up your butt once."

That's a Monday.  They are like that.  And Peanut has PE on Mondays.  PE.  Mondays.   PE means wear sneakers.  I can never remember that.  Its Monday.  Nothing important should ever happen on Mondays.  Monday is a fancy word for "giant brain fart" day.  Its the day that they are lucky I remember what's going on at all, much less get the kids to school.  And then remembering sneakers? Forget it.  Peanut has PE on Mondays.  As I complained and whined about this my friend, who is a genius, by the way, suggested putting in my smartphone.  This is why I have friends.  To think for me.  To have great ideas.  Almost as great as Pink Milk.  But PE can't possibly solve world peace.  Sorry to let you down like that.  It just won't.  Pink Milk though ... there's something to it.  Grab your towel, and a glass of pink milk.  And don't forget your erasers for people.

Spring has Sprung

Even though it's Monday.  Despite the cold that is invading every room of my house.  Spring is here, according to some sciencey stuff about planet orbit patterns, the birds, the pollen and the weeds.  It's been here a week.  I believed it for a few days.  I got excited for flip flops.  Then Mother Nature slapped me in the face with this 39 degrees junk.  So today, I'm slapping back -- bento style.  And yeah, I said sciencey.  Its a word.  I said so, and I'm important, remember?

Spring Bento -- Melon Fusion Jello (no idea what that means), Butterfly tortillas, cheese bunny, Tulip eggs, pepperoni "petals", sunflower seeds (for effect ... its Spring) in shredded cheese, and "birds eggs" jelly beans with flower marshmallow.  

They also got some pizza sauce in a separate container.  Butterfly pizzas -- how much more Spring can you get?  And still so trendy.  This is Bean's lunch.  Peanut doesn't "do" hard boiled eggs, so she got oranges.  Not springy enough for a picture.  She was actually bummed about that.

Sunday, March 27, 2011

I'm going to let my daughter do what?!? Season One Recap

When Peanut was two, we decided that we would put her in gymnastics.  From that time until this year, her dream has been to be a competitive gymnast.  We worked on it.  We put her in the classes, paid the money, did the private lessons, and even moved to a better gym.  And here we are at the end of her first competitive season.  Lord have mercy.  I've learned a lot.  The gymnastics "season" runs forever.  It starts in August with the paying of fees.  Coaches fees, equipment fees, uniform fees, USAG fees, meet fees, have-to-have-the-right-bag fees, we-can't-think-of-a-name-for-this-fee fees, and are-you-sure-there's-money-left-in-your-account-we-haven't-taken-yet fees.  Clark Kent and I, like the other parents, rolled in to the gym and got squeezed at every opportunity for something.  Its how it goes.  Gymnastics is full of fees.  And time.  Nine hours a week, to be specific.  And this is just the first year.  There are girls at Peanut's gym that go 20 hours a week.  Twenty Hours.  A part time job with no pay.  This is a time consuming sport.  

I also learned that the word Coach is the antithesis of the word Communication.  Its impossible to use the two in a sentence that give any coherent idea of what is going on in the gym.  Coaches don't communicate.  Not through email, not through letters sent home, not through the phone (though they have the fancy smartphones), and especially not in person ("Oh hey, since you're standing here talking to me about the latest Words with Friends app update, I'll let you know there's extra practice in the morning" ... never happens).  I think its a fundamental law of the universe.  The number 42 and Coach miscommunication.  Its the way things are.  Grab your towel.

Soccer moms have nothing on gym moms.  Not a thing.  This year I made 18 pairs of flip flops and 18 bows for the team. 18 cutesy girls competed too.  It was great.  Soccer moms don't make hair bows.  Our gym hosted a meet.  That's hours of decorating, hand painting, brainstorming, and preparing stuff that in the long run no one notices anyway.  Its an amazing world, and an amazing family that you have at the gym.  I suppose spending countless hours of your life watching your child put herself in peril does that.  Its a sort of "oh my goodness, she's really going to do that" camaraderie.  I never get used to it.  Every single time my child ran toward the vault mats at a meet I held my breath.  And meets are everywhere.  Not always, I've learned.  But this year ours were.  We let Coach I-don't-have-small-kids pick the meets this year.  How do I know this, you wonder?  They were eight hours away.  They were up north in the dead of winter.  They were eight hours away.  But Peanut went.  And she did pretty well.  Not a gold medalist, but she didn't care.  I love that.  She had fun.
Lucky bows and Lucky Hair.

Fast forward to the Tennessee State Championships.  Rules are different and routines are different and the girls all had new bows.  Lucky bows.  And curls.  Peanut's hair isn't curly.  It actually protests at the very idea of curls.  "I'm not cheerleader hair" it told me.  "Do I look like pageant hair?" it whined.  But it stayed.  And it liked the lucky bow.  Thanks hair.  Thanks for supporting Peanut in this madness.

At State there was the Old Gym Team, with Old Gym Coaches.  This is the place from which Peanut and I ran running.  The place that defined my "mama bear" attitude.  The place that told Peanut she'd never be good enough for team. The place with the coaches t hat made her cry.  At the State Championships.  And I secretly wanted Old Gym Team to do bad.  Am I mean and petty?  Oh you bet.  Every minute of the day when it comes to that place.  Overall, our gym did better than Old Gym.  Reassurance that Peanut is in the right place.

The awards ceremony was something else.  See, the thing is you drive 3 hours, sit for four hours to watch your daughter for a total of about 3 minutes.  What other sport has that much build up?  Floor -- 45 seconds.  Bars -- 15 seconds.  Beam -- 45 seconds.  Vault -- 30 seconds.  Unless of course some jerk Coach from some other team has his girls warming up beam next to the vault track thus causing your daughter to have a redo 3rd run.  Then its 45 seconds.  But hey, I'm not mad at that dude.  The rest is waiting.  Waiting for the awards ceremony.  No matter what meet your at, the awards ceremony is like a beautifully choreographed train wreck.  State Championships were no exception.  And of course, with so many girls there, not everyone gets a medal.  Its State CHAMPIONSHIPS.  Peanut, and all the other girls, had to qualify.  This is finals.  No participation medals here.  So of course little girls were crying.  I even felt slightly bad they were from Old Gym Team.  Slightly.  There mamas were mad.  "Everyone should get at least one medal" they pouted.  Yeah well, they don't.  And be honest with yourselves -- if your daughter had finished 1st, not 14th, you wouldn't say that.  That's only the whining of someone who should have put their kid in soccer.  Everyone gets a trophy at the end of that season.

So here I sit reflecting on all of it.  Peanut placed 4th in the state in her division.  Proud would be an understatement.  I am overjoyed.  Its time to move on to next year.  They want me on the booster club board.  They don't know me well.   The season draws to a close and we can start preparing for next year.  I'll jump in for lucky bows, pretty signs and cutesy flip flops.  There's got to be a "Make Cute Things" Committee.  That's for me.  And I'm going to start saving for the fees.  I'm thinking organ harvesting for the black market trade.  I hear its profitable.  Gymnastics is a once-in-a-lifetime event that Peanut loves.  So its worth it.  And I do love the drama, excitement and lucky bows.

Fish, Dogs and Pigs

I love making lunch for the kids with a theme.  Peanut and Bean love to see themes in their lunches.  They even ask for it.  That's another reason to have bento lunches.  They love the fun aspect.  I try to be super creative and come up with neat themes that are all tied together.  Sometimes it works.  I'll post the ones that work.  The ones that don't will just go to school without any fanfare.

Here are three themes I did for the girls last week.  Save for the blue rice, they loved them.
Ocean Theme -- Fish sticks, rice with cheese dolphin and green bean seaweed, Goldfish crackers, pepperoni "bubbles" and brownie "rocks"

Dog theme -- Dog shaped PB&J with cheese collar, Smores cereal "dog food", dog shaped marshmallows, cheese stick "dog bones" and a frozen yogurt "fetch stick"

Three Little Pigs theme -- Pig sandwich (opened faced Nutella sandwich), "Sticks" Wheat Thin Sticks, "Hay" Lo Mein noodles, "Bricks" cheese sticks, "Pig Trough" celery with peanut butter, and "Mud" brownie squares.

Notice the cute factor.  Cute equals the kids eat it up.  Except blue rice.  Blue rice is too strange to eat, I've been told.

Bentos are Trendy

Bento Boxes are hip and neat and fun.  Trendy.  They are also a great way to feed children.  Why you ask?  They provide small amounts of varied foods presented in fun ways. Kids love them.  They beg for them.  Your kids don't, you say.  Your kids aren't into the latest fads, you say.  Really?  Think Lunchables.  Yup, they're bentos.  Crackers, cheese, processed meat -- all cleverly cut into shapes and served in little divided trays.  Bentos are trendy, and kids love them.  Peanut and Bean love them.  For Christmas, the ever great Nana got them Bento Lunch Boxes in cute bags.  Bento boxes come in all shapes and sizes, but I love the ones my girls have because they are in their own cute bags.  I'm all about cute bags.

What goes into a bento box?  Oh, the possibilities are endless!  I try to do themes.  I'll present them here for others to gawk at and be inspired by.  At the least you can say "OOH" and "AAH" and be amazed that I have too much time in the mornings for my children and obviously should never complain about lack of sleep.  Its cool.

Here's a few lunches I've put together for my girls in the past:

Jello, Wheat Thin crackers, pepperonis, cheese stick, oreos and pickles.  With picks.  Picks are most important in Bento world.  And they must be cute.  Don't use plain toothpicks.  That's not trendy.

Lunchable style -- turkey, cheese and crackers.  But see, I cut the turkey into stars.  So its trendy.  Kids like stars.  Peanut and Bean won't eat turkey sandwiches.  But make it some stars and put it with crackers and BOOYAH!  Instant lovable lunch.

Healthy is fun.  Sliced apples with peanut butter, rice, edamame and soy sauce.  Yum.  And a smiley face.  Cuteness wins.

Valentines bento.  Holidays are important and must be celebrated inside the children's lunch.  Heart sandwich with Nutella, heart marshmallows, strawberries and cute little Teddy crackers.  

These are simple and the kids eat things they wouldn't otherwise eat.  Imagine that.  Those Japanese are so, so clever.  And trendy.  Mustn't forget trendy. 


Isn't that what blogging says?  It says that I think I'm important enough to put my musings up to the interwebs?  If you saw this and thought "OOH, Raising Royalty!  Inside scoops on Prince William and What's-her-name", I am sorry.  Its not.  So, if that's what you were hoping for, you can leave now.  Go ahead, little red "x" buttons are your friend anyway, aren't they?

I'm Jess.  I'm 31.  I'm a mom and a wife and a child raising machine.  My family and I reside in the little western Tennessee metropolis of Memphis.  AKA "Where Bass Pro Shops will eventually be", AKA "That city that's always in the news for fighting with itself", AKA "That city that single handedly kept the TV show First 48 on the air for its first full season" and finally AKA "That's where Graceland is".  We hail from the amazing state of South Carolina originally.  AKA "Where those 4 laughing babies come from" AKA "Where politicians disappear to Argentina" AKA "That state that single handedly keeps late night comedy writers from having to come up with their own stuff", and finally AKA "The whoopie cushion of the USA" (Thanks Jon Stewart for that one!)  We're proud.  Its fun moving from one big joke to another, isn't it?

Here in Memphis, my husband, Clark Kent (yeah, he's my Superman) and I have been married 10 years and have four amazing children.  I tell my children all the time that they are important.  My daughters are Princesses.  My sons are Princes.  Always.  In God's eyes, in my eyes, and well, in your eyes too.  Just so you know.  They are.  I tell them so.  Just like in Corrina, Corrina, when Corrina teaches Molly to say "My name is Molly Singer, and there is no one in the world more important than me!"  They need to know that.  Every child should know that.  They are the most important person in the world. Its confidence, its self esteem, its moxie.

Let me introduce my four amazing kiddos.
Peanut -- Peanut is 8 1/2 years old.  She will be 9 in July, as she will remind any person within earshot every chance she gets.  She's a competitive gymnast.  Read here "Mom and Dad fork out lots, put in tons of hours and travel to all sorts of places so I can continue to win medals and have this smile on my face."  Its important.  She loves gymnastics.  She loves competing. She doesn't care about getting first place.  That's the best part.  

Bean -- Bean is 5 1/2.  She will be 6 in August.  She doesn't feel the need to tell everyone on the planet.  She's cool like that.  Easy going most of the time.  Bean is a dancer.  Mostly because I force her to be.  Why?  She loves ballet.  She loves dance.  She loves music.  But she wants to take gymnastics.  Yup. Monkey See, Monkey Do reigns supreme in my house.  But she loves her dance class.  Its amazing.  I'll share the amazingness that is Miss Peggy later.  Its fully amazing.  And its dance.

Monkey Man -- Monkey Man is 2 1/2 (well, 34.5 months for those of you who ridiculously count months after the first year.  Yeah, you know who you are).  He's a 100% typical boy who tries to annoy all older children with every given chance.  As he will tell you at every chance you give him, he will play soccer when he's three.  Or in August, which is the actual time he's going to play.  He loves sports, cars, and all things boyish.  Of course, he still thinks Spiderman is cooler than Superman, but every kid has his flaws.  We're still training him in the ways of why Superman is the greatest super hero of all times. 

Little Frog -- Actually, he doesn't really have a nickname yet.  He's still pretty new.  I'm working on it.  On Thursday he'll be 2 months old.  At which point I can quit counting weeks.  Which is annoying.  Especially when people say things like "He's 36 weeks".  Not necessary, and annoying.  He enjoys eating, sleeping, pooping and crying.  He smiles and coos, and that is the extent of his entertaining prowess.  He's quiet.  But one has to be in a house with this many people.  

That's them.  My family.  Plus three dogs.  Yeah, we're one of those families.  We have too many dogs.  Don't hate.  Its who we are.  And I wouldn't trade it for anything!  This is my life, my adventures.  Sometimes they are funny, sometimes sad, often boring, but there they are.  My life is always going 100mph, and I just hold on and enjoy the ride.  You can too.  Follow me in all my adventures.  Its important!  Its on the internet, so it must be.