“I Love You Even Though You’re My Daughter”

Sunday night was the most scared I’ve ever been. My almost two year old son fell into a pool. He’s completely fine and my husband and I are recovering slowly. We were at my mom’s house and we wanted to take the kids outside after dinner. While my husband and I were attempting to control the dogs, our kids, almost nine and almost two, took off. When they got to the end of the patio my daughter veered left and my son veered right, straight towards the deep end of my mom’s pool.

I shouted “NO!” and closed the distance between us almost immediately, but not quickly enough to stop him from jumping in.

You always hear that time slows down in those type of situations, for me it was more like my brain sped up. What surprised me was how many thoughts I was able to have in just that split second. My first thought was, “jump in”, naturally. And then (this sounds silly and horrible) I thought about whether or not I should take my shoes off. You always see it in movies, people taking their shoes off before diving in to save someone, but then I thought of how long it would take to take my shoes off. After having all those thoughts, I realized I just needed to grab him and pull him out. His hair wasn’t even wet, my brain had just gone on super drive.

And then everything slowed down. We stripped his wet clothes off him, my husband got a big fluffy towel from inside, we wrapped him up and I held him. I put his head on my chest, wrapped him up in my arms, and rocked him. I wished I could put him back inside me, have him be a part of me again. Keep him safe. I wished I had a kangaroo pouch I could carry him and his sister in. Keep them safe.

I spent that night in his room, awake, aware of every breath he took, every shift he made. In the other room, my husband had nightmares.

Traumatic experience aside, it’s been a very nice week. There’s been a lot of fun and a lot of catching up with dear friends I don’t see often enough. There have been coffees, lunches, playdates and drinks. All with other kick ass moms I’m lucky to know and have as friends. Some of these moms are new moms, and some have been doing it awhile. With all of them the conversation turned to motherhood.

When you get together with a new mom there are always questions. Simple, casual enough, questions that only hint at bigger questions and concerns. “When did yours start sleeping?”, “Do you get out a lot?”, but what you really want to know when you’re a new mom, what I wanted to know, was, “Is this normal?” and “Does this get easier?”.

Yes, it’s normal. Normal to be exhausted, normal to miss your independence, normal to wonder in the back of your head if motherhood was a wise decision. Normal for your baby to not sleep, or not poop, or sleep too much, or poop too much.

No, it doesn’t get easier. Because sleepless nights turn into toddlers running towards pools or eight year olds screaming, “Are you happy now?” before stomping into their bedroom.

My wonderful week of mom time was capped off with drinks with my own mom tonight. I mentioned all the other moms I had seen, the conversations I’d had, and how difficult motherhood can be. She said….

“What no one can understand until they become a mother, is that it’s all the time. I thought I would have you, but then I’d go to class, or work, and not be a mom for awhile. But your kids are always with you. And then, I thought once you were eighteen it would be this relationship between two adults, but I’m still a mom. Even when your kids are in their thirties and have kids of their own, that need to provide, to protect, and make sure you’re happy, it never goes away.”

As we said goodbye she hugged me and said, “I love you even though you’re my daughter.”

“Jesus mom,” I scoffed.

“You know what I mean,” she said.

Yeah, I do. I love you even though I had to give up parts of who I was. I love you even though you make me second guess myself and worry constantly. I love you and sometimes wish I could stuff you in a big kangaroo pouch and protect you from the bad things. I love you even though you make me tired and crazy. I love you because even as you grow apart from me, you are still a part of me. The very best part.

 

 

 

 

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A Tale of Two Popcorns: Honey Butter and Air Popped in the Microwave

Air Popped in the Microwave

Once upon a time, it was the last day of summer vacation. The kids were screaming and chasing each other around the coach.

“Who wants popcorn and a movie?” I asked.

My family eats a lot of popcorn. We usually make it on the stove in a big pot with oil. So while the kids picked out and started a movie, I went to start the popcorn, only to find we were out of oil. 😱

This left me with a few options; 1. Pile the kids in the car in the ninety nine degree heat and go to the store. 2. Tell them I couldn’t make popcorn and face the inevitable tantrums. 3. Figure something out.

I’d seen online that it was possible to make popcorn in the microwave, but I always assumed it was a “fail” waiting to happen. But heck, how bad could it be? So I looked it up online, found the ratio of popcorn to oil, made sure I could use olive oil, and tried it. And…. it worked! Not only that, it was really good! So much lighter than popping it in oil on the stove.

Instructions

  1. Pour 1/2 cup popcorn kernels, and 1 tablespoon oil (I used olive) into a paper bag. And sprinkle salt on to the kernels.
  2. Fold the top of the bag two or three times. You want to make sure the bag doesn’t open, but you also want to leave room in the bag for the kernels to pop. And don’t worry about trying to make the bag flat, like your typical microwave popcorn.
  3. Put the bag in the microwave standing up. Set the timer for three minutes on high heat. Stop the microwave when the popping slows down.
  4. Pour in a bowl and season as desired. Speaking of seasoning……

Honey Butter Popcorn

My son loves honey. I mean, really, really loves honey. He still has trouble saying “dada”, but ask him what he wants to eat and he’ll proudly say “honey” loud and clear.

I’m always trying to figure out things to do with honey. One afternoon, he was once again asking for honey, when I was reminded of the honey popcorn I’d seen at Disneyland way back in the day. Hmmmm.

I popped my popcorn in the microwave, melted 2 tablespoons honey with 2 tablespoons butter, and poured it on top. Then I salted generously.

Okay, I’m pretty much a purist when it comes to popcorn. Give me salt and butter or give me death. I am not a huge fan of kettle corn, it tastes like it can’t make up its mind. So I had low expectations for the honey butter. I figured it’d be a nice treat for the kids, but not so much my cup of tea.

Little did I know, put honey butter on popcorn and you have the popcorn equivalent of crack. I could not get enough. In fact, I immediately had to make a second batch.

FYI, 2 tablespoons each of honey and butter is a lot, and will generously cost your popcorn. Feel free to go with less, or less of one or the other. I like my popcorn well coated, and found that 2 tablespoons of each was pretty perfect.

A Mother’s Diet: Guilt, Shame and Brussel Sprouts

A few months ago I was getting dressed and my pants were tighter than normal. I looked down at my belly, my rolls, and thought, “Oh my God, I’m a f**king Before picture.” I wanted to scream. That morning I decided to lose weight. But it wasn’t that simple, nothing ever is. I almost immediately started to argue with myself.

“Why do you want to lose weight?” the voice in my head asked, “Are you insecure? You shouldn’t be insecure, everyone is beautiful.”

“Don’t focus on your weight, that’s one small aspect of who you are. You’re being vain.”

I started to spiral, worried that people would judge me for wanting to lose weight, worried people already judged me for not losing weight, but my biggest concern was my daughter. How could I consciously try to lose weight without setting a bad example for her? I remember growing up around women who focused on their weight, I remember thinking how silly they sounded, but what if my daughter didn’t think it was silly? At almost nine years old I know that she is already receiving those messages that weight is important, despite our best efforts to avoid them. How could I, her biggest influencer, in good conscience add to the narrative that thinner is better?

I remember her mentioning her stomach one time after coming home from school and my heart broke. Always, always with her we talk about health and what her body needs and wants. When she mentioned her stomach I told her it was exactly the right size for her. We talk about food we talk about eating lots of different kinds of food because that’s what her body needs to be healthy and grow big. When she gets an upset stomach from too much sugar, we tell her that it is her body’s way of telling her it doesn’t like having all that sugar.

I have been so careful about how ( and how much) we talk about health and diet, not only so that she grows up healthy, but also so that she has a strong sense of ownership that it is HER body, and no one else’s….. Why wasn’t I doing the same thing for myself? After years of breastfeeding, being pregnant, trying to get pregnant, my body finally feels like mine and mine alone again. So why did I feel my wanting to lose weight was up to anyone other than me?

So, I started to exercise and I started to diet. I’ve lost twelve pounds so far and I feel great. But honestly, that great feeling has so little to do with losing weight. I feel great because I’ve put myself first. For just a few hours a week, I am no one’s mom, daughter, friend, I’m just me. Focused on myself and getting stronger, and faster. And doing that for myself, caring for myself first, has made me that much more present for the people I love.

Today I walked farther and faster than I ever have before. I started to tear up. I realize, I’m not a Before picture. I will always be an After picture. After becoming a mom, after becoming a wife, after losing a pregnancy, after dealing with depression, after, after, after. It’s not Day One, or Day Twenty, it’s just another day. I won’t discredit where and who I’ve been before, because they’ve gotten me where I am today. Happier, stronger, and healthier.

Goodbye Summer

One of my favorite things to do as a mom is walk my daughter to school. Walking feels almost like a remnant of a bygone time, so I treasure it. Her school is a couple blocks, and one big grassy park away, and only takes us fifteen minutes to get there. Sometimes if the weather is really awful we’ll drive, but I try to walk as much as we can. We watch for our neighborhood family of roadrunners on the way. We say good morning to the dogs. Today we met Stella and Luna, very good dogs indeed.

The walk is calm until we get to the park. Once there you can hear the crossing guard’s whistle, and kids yelling to their friends. Sometimes they’ll yell at my daughter and we’ll walk the rest of the way with friends. The girls walking in front, talking, the grown ups and my son following close behind. It’s loud, and energetic and joyful.

And then the bell rings. Kids go to class, parents go to work. My son and I walk home. The once bustling park is now quiet and empty with the exception of a few joggers and retirees. It’s a completely different place. We listen to the wind in the trees, and watch out for robins and sparrows. It’s peaceful.

Today was my daughter’s first day of third grade. It also marked the end of my first summer as a stay at home mom. I’m not going to lie, I was nervous about this summer. I mean, I love my kids, but spending all day every day with them? I don’t love anyone that much. But, we survived! We all still love each other, and we even had fun! Of course we didn’t accomplish everything we wanted to. My daughter wanted to go to the beach and that didn’t happen. My house is not as clean as I was hoping to get it, and I didn’t write as much as I meant to. My kids watched way more television than I had wanted. But we had fun. And I got through it.

And we had adventures! There was the girls weekend my daughter and I took with my mom at Tamaya Resort, where we spent all day at the pool and ordered room service. We spent two weeks outside of Durango at the family cabin. We had family friends come stay with us, marking my daughter’s very first sleepover. It was a summer of firsts and also the familiar. And I don’t think I would’ve changed a minute of it.

Chocolate Cupcakes with Strawberry Mousse

My birthday was a few weeks ago so naturally, I used the occasion as an excuse to make some delicious cupcakes. I like to go all out for birthday desserts (i.e. my husband’s birthday cake) and my birthday is no exception. I’ve been making some iteration of this recipe for more than ten years. I had a similar cake at a local bakery and fell in love with it. When I went back for more a few months later, it was no longer on the menu. So I had to make my own. It’s taken me awhile to get it to where I’m really proud of it.

IMG_0044_16
My birthday cake from 2010. We all have to start somewhere.

Now, there are a lot of components to this recipe, but all of the components are easy to do, I promise. Because of all the components, and because it takes a while for the mousse to set, and the cupcakes to cool, I tend to make the mousse and cupcakes the day before I want to serve them and then put everything together the day of. It can totally be done in one day though. I just tend to get antsy waiting for the mousse to set completely. Also, I use a cake mix to make my chocolate cupcakes. Don’t hate me.

Ingredients

For the strawberry mousse

  • 1 envelope unflavored gelatin
  • 1/4 cup water
  • 2 cups cut up fresh strawberries
  • 1/4 cup white sugar
  • 1 cup whipping cream

For the cupcakes

  • 1 Devil’s Food cake mix
  • whatever ingredients cake mix calls for

For the ganache

  • 1 cup semisweet chocolate chips
  • 1/2 cup whipping cream

For the whipped cream

  • 1/2 cup whipping cream

Directions

For the strawberry mousse

  1. Sprinkle the gelatin on top of the 1/4 cup of water. Let it sit for five minutes while you get your strawberries going.
  2. Put your strawberries and the sugar into a food processor and blend until smooth.
  3. Move your strawberry and sugar mixture to a small saucepan and bring to a boil over medium-high heat.
  4. Remove from heat and stir in the gelatin mixture until the gelatin is completely dissolved.
  5. Chill in the refrigerator until cool and the consistency of egg whites.
  6. Once your strawberry mixture is cool, start to beat your cream into whipped cream. Start at a low speed until foamy, and then increase your speed to medium/medium-high. Beat until peaks form. You’ll know it’s done when you can tilt the bowl on it’s side (slowly, otherwise, uh-oh) and the whipped cream holds its shape instead of sloshing all over.
  7. Gently fold in your strawberry mixture until fully incorporated. And I mean gently. You don’t want to lose all that air you just beat into your whipped cream, so be gentle and sweet to your mousse. 😉
  8. Let chill for at least 30 minutes. You want your mousse to be nice and firm.

    IMG_2770
    Mmmm. Perfectly set mousse.

For the cupcakes

  1. Prepare your cupcakes according to the box, or use your favorite chocolate cake recipe. Honestly, after getting the mousse just right, you’ve earned the right to make the cupcakes as easy as possible.
  2. Let them cool COMPLETELY.

Assembling the cupcakes

  1. Once your mousse is set, and your cupcakes are cool, you’re ready to put them all together.
  2. To fill the cupcakes you’ll need a pastry bag (or large Ziploc or sandwich type bag) and a long, thin, pastry tip. Fill the pastry bag with your mousse, about half full (more than that and you’ll end up with strawberry mousse all over your hands like I did). Stick your pastry tip into the center of the cupcake about halfway. Pull out the tip a little bit and squeeze the mousse into the cupcake. At the risk of sounding like a big old weirdo, this step is a lot of fun! You can actually see the cupcakes getting filled with mousse. You’ll know it’s good when little cracks start to form in the top of the cupcake.
  3. Once all of the cupcakes are filled, it’s time to make the chocolate ganache to put on top. Melt the chocolate chips and cream in a saucepan on medium-low heat, stirring constantly. Nothing is worse than burned chocolate. Once the ganache is smooth and shiny, take it off the heat and top your cupcakes.
  4. I put the ganache on with a spoon, while holding the cupcake at an angle. I start at the edge of the cupcake, and let gravity do most of the work for me. I keep adding ganache on the edge, turning the cupcake as I go, and once I have enough on there (and a little goes a long way) I use the back of the spoon to smooth it out and cover the middle, where I filled the cupcake with mousse. Doing it this way cuts down on how much mousse mixes with the ganache and makes it look prettier. And if a little pink gets in your ganache, don’t worry, you can cover it up with whipped cream.
  5. I top my cupcakes with whipped cream and sliced strawberries right before I serve them. The whipped cream helps cut through all the richness and sweetness, also, everything is better with whipped cream. And the strawberries look cute. Make your whipped cream the same way you did with the strawberry mousse, start at a low speed, increase when it gets foamy. You can use another pastry bag and pastry tip for fun shapes, or just scoop a little dollop on top, you literally can’t go wrong when you’re adding whipped cream to things.

And there you have it! My favorite cupcake and my birthday tradition. I hope you enjoy!

 

 

Spiced Blueberry Pancakes with Butter Pecan Syrup

Anytime we go up to the family cabin outside of Durango, we always have to stop at Honeyville! We’ve been going there since it was a tiny shop, about the size of our living room, and before they expanded not only their location, but also their selection.

We love this place! Everything I’ve ever had there is delicious and everyone who works there is incredibly friendly. Even better? Samples! You can try their whipped honey, jams, syrups, and if you’re 21 or older, their wines and spirits.

When we were there last week I tried their butter pecan syrup and immediately knew I needed to bring some home. When I was purchasing it, the very sweet young woman saw what I was getting and got excited. “What are you going to put it on? I’m always looking for new ideas for that one!”

Hmmm, what was I going to put it on? Well first I put it on good old fashioned pancakes. And it was good, don’t get me wrong, but it was a lot of sweet. What it needed was something a little tart (blueberries?) and some warm spices (cinnamon and nutmeg?) to balance the delicious sweetness of the syrup.

So I added blueberries, cinnamon and nutmeg to my faithful pancake recipe and the results were…. soooooo good!

Ingredients

  • 1 1/2 cups flour
  • 3 1/2 teaspoons baking powder
  • 1 teaspoon salt
  • 1 tablespoon sugar
  • 1 teaspoon cinnamon
  • 1/2 teaspoon nutmeg
  • 1 1/4 cups milk
  • 1 egg
  • 3 tablespoons cooled melted butter
  • 1 cup blueberries
  • Butter pecan syrup (might I recommend Honeyville’s?)

Directions

  1. Mix all of your dry ingredients together.
  2. Add your milk, egg and melted butter, and mix until incorporated.
  3. Gently stir in your blueberries.
  4. Cook on a hot griddle or frying pan.
  5. Top with butter pecan syrup and enjoy!

I hope you like these pancakes. And if you need some helpful hints on cooking a perfect pancake, start here.

Copycat Dole Whip!

Happy National Ice Cream Day! Let’s celebrate with one of my favorite treats! And while it’s technically not ice cream, it’s cold, creamy and refreshing. And a fairly decent replica of my absolute FAVORITE Disney Park treat. And lord knows I like a lot of Disney treats.

Now, for those who aren’t familiar, a Dole Whip is a pineapple soft serve treat. You can get them at Adventureland in Disneyland and The Magic Kingdom, as well as several other spots in Disney World. Some places you can get it swirled with vanilla ice cream, some places you can get it with a shot of coconut rum. My favorite way to have it is as a float. Pineapple soft serve with pineapple juice. It is sooooo refreshing after a hot day riding rollercoasters and getting your picture taken with Mickey.

And, as it turns out, it’s really easy to replicate it at home! So if getting to one of the parks isn’t in your foreseeable future, don’t be too sad, at least you can snack as if you were there.

Ingredients

  • 2 cups frozen pineapple chunks
  • 1/2 cup milk (any kind, I use almond)

Instructions

All you need to do is put your frozen pineapple chunks and milk into your food processor and turn it on. The hardest part is being patient while your food processor turns those frozen chunks into the perfect soft serve consistency, which usually takes me about five minutes and several breaks where I smush it down to get rid of all the chunks.

The only problem with these is that they don’t photograph well, but believe me, they taste yummy! And it’s a fairly healthy treat since it’s nothing but pineapple and milk. Let me know what you think!