Comes a time…

when every mother is faced with a certain decision. To nap, or not to nap? That is the question. There comes a time when a nap may no longer be a good thing. There comes a time when one needs to make a necessary decision, a big sacrifice. Eliminate the afternoon nap and one may not get a (much needed) break during the day, but one can (potentially) have a fairly quiet evening. Keep the afternoon nap and one is certain to get a nice mid-day respite, before picking the kids up from school, before all hell breaks loose. Now which, I ask, is better for the psyche?

Some parents do not have this choice, the luxury of eliminating the afternoon nap, and wish they did. It is truly a sad day when a child no longer needs his or her nap. It is a day when a mother, slowly but surely, begins to lose her sanity if she has not done so already. One can only hope that one’s child, should s/he have given up the afternoon siesta, will contently sit and watch television… for a couple of hours!

But what to do when given the choice? And which is the better alternative, a break in the day and a very late night, or no break whatsoever from 6 am until 7pm? (All without pay!)

Unfortunately, today the decision was made for me. Alexander fell asleep on the way home from the aquarium. I tried to wake him up when we got home but he was in such a deep slumber I couldn’t. I did catch a little break, but then all hell broke loose this afternoon as it usually does. Rebecca forgot her cheerleading outfit and there was a game after school. I did not know this; SuperMom is not a mind reader. I picked up Christopher and drove off immediately to the gas station. Apparently she saw the car pull out of the parking lot and got pretty upset. She called as I was filling up the car, yelling and screaming at me. As though this was somehow my fault. But, of course it was. Everything is. Christopher, upon hearing how upset his sister was (the car is equipped with Bluetooth), suggested I pick up a snack, some ice cream, from the store inside. With the nozzle still in the tank I went in and chose three chocolate eclairs. By the time I came out the car had been filled.

I met Rebecca in the reception area and appologized (to make her feel better) and told her that her brother had selected a special treat for her to have when she got home. She didn’t say anything or crack a smile until I told her it was not healthy! She screamed and hollered at everyone once she was home. She is too big for me to forcefully put her in her room, and she can be mighty fresh to her mother. She told me, not too long ago, that I yelled at her too much. And you know what, she is probably right. But, by that same token I will not be disrespected, talked back to or treateded rudely. I told her that perhaps if she treated me with a little respect and a little kindness instead of greeting me in the morning, barking at me with her Miss Grumpy Pants attitude that maybe I would be a little happier. Sheeesh…

Miss Grumpy Pants really needs to get to bed earlier. She gets overtired and cranky. I have known this for 9 years now. I try to be a fair mother and let her watch American Idol (she is addicted) when her homework and everything else is done. The she goes up and reads for a while. If she gets really in to a book she stays up. I can tell her to turn her lights out but I know they will get turned back on again when I go into my bedroom. I am so darned tired and fried by the day’s end I do not have patience to check whether she’ll be turning her light back on or not. The only thing i can focus on at that point is my own bed with me in it.

Now I really wish that Aleander had not fallen asleep. My evening would have ended at 7pm with a kiss good night followed by a long hot bath and a glass of wine. (The older two would be quietly watching TV downstairs) But now Alexander is up for another 4 hours. He is drivingdrivingdriving us all batty and Miss Grumpy Pants has her major attitude back. And I am too tired to deal with it. I can not run up and hide in the tub partly because Alexander is a danger to himself and others, but mostly because he won’t let me bathe in peace, and there is no point in a bath if one can not relax.

I have two arms and 3 kids and I simply have not found a way to balance them all. Each child requires something different from me, yet each child needs everything from me all at once, at the very same time. Each child is in a vastly different phase, heading in a vastly different direction, all at once. And somehow I have to be with all three kids at all three places. Life was easy, so much easier with just two children. I have no idea at all how moms of 4 or more can manage, function normally and stay sane. I lost my sanity on September 7th, 2005 and am on the verge, thisclose, of releasing my inner Brittney.

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Strawberry Tea Bread

My mother makes this a lot in the summer using fresh local berries and serves it with tea in the afternoon. If it is a particularly warm day, iced tea replaces the hot beverage. Freshly frozen berries work wonderfully as well, making it a lovely year-round treat. We don’t have “Tea Time” at home the way my parents do. We’re rarely home that time of the day. But because my children love the bread, just mildly sweet and fruity, I will bake a couple of loaves early in the morning to serve for breakfast. A tall glass of orange juice or ice cold milk is a perfect accompaniment for the children, the adults in this family, however, perfer theirs with a pot of freshly brewed coffee.

Recipe makes 1 loaf — this is rarely enough and you may want to double it!

Preheat over to 350 degrees

Ingredients:

1 1/2 C. flour

3/4 C. sugar

1/2 Tsp. baking soda

1/2 Tsp. vanilla

2 eggs

2/3 C. of canola or vegetable oil

1 1/4 C. cut strawberries

Sift flour and baking soda together in a bowl and set asside.

Mix together eggs, sugar, vanilla and oil

Slowly add dry ingredients while mixing

Grease a 9 inch loaf pan

Bake 1 hour

Let cool about 15 minutes before serving

inter(LIFE)rupted

The fact that I can get anything done amazes me sometimes. I am forever being side-tracked, pulled aside, and not to mention forgetful! I have had one too many blond moments recently that have included — but not limited to — locking the house up at night and leaving the keys in the front door, and turning the heat up at night before bed (80!) instead of down to 68. It was a good thing Alexander woke me up that Midnight demanding some cold water. Walking out of my bedroom, which is cooler than the rest of the house, I felt as though I had walked into an inferno. There are others, countless others. I can not stay focused long enough to finish one task, and on the rare occasion I can, someone needs something from me and takes me away from myself. So maddening.

Today is a pretty typical day:

I get up at 6:30 (and that’s a late morning)and head down to make coffee… I put the coffee (Verona from Starbucks) in the grinder. Alexander wakes up shrieking for me so I get him from his crib and get him some milk. Then he tells me he is wet so we have to change his pajamas. But I have no clean ones upstairs so I go down to the basement. I see some folded up in a laundry basket but then I remember that I have to toss the stuff in the dryer from the washer. As I go up the stairs I pass all the toilet paper and paper towels and grab a roll of paper towels because I know we are running low in the kitchen. Back up and in the kitchen I place 3 scoops of freshly ground coffee in to the brown paper filter. The time on my coffee pot says 6:45. I should have had it all set up last night and the coffee would have been brewed for me by the time I got up. But I didn’t. Alexander is rolling around the family room floor in his Birthday suit. Damn! Forgot the clean PJs! Run down to get them and back up I come. Alexander wants nothing to do with the pajamas or any article of clothing. I end up chasing him around the house. Finally my coffee beeps letting me know it is ready. But Alexander is still naked and it is not warm in the house. Whoops, forgot to turn the heat back up! By the time all is said and done it is 6:50. It took twenty minutes to make a pot off coffee.

I promised the kids I would make pumpkin pancakes for breakfast. Good and nutritious, I decide I still have time to do so. Besides I will have plenty to put in the freezer for another morning. I get out my necessary ingredients, items and utensils:

wire whisk
metal mixing bowl
measuring cups
raisins
canned pumpkin
can opener
pancake mix
spices
milk
water
oven mitt
stove top griddle
and Pam

I mix all the ingredients together and prepare to start making my pancakes when Alexander tells me he needs to poop. He can only do this in a Pull-Up so off I go to get a Pull-Up on him, wash my hands and drop batter onto the now hot griddle by the spoonful. After the pancakes have been flipped Alexander beckons me to change him. I turn the heat way down and do what I need to do. Wash my hands again and go back to my pancakes. A little while later Alexander pees on the floor “accidentally on purpose” he tells me. I turn the griddle down low again and go to clean up the mess. Wash my hands again, and tend to the pancakes. The sink is full and I need to make room for the new set of dirty dishes. I could be flipping and moving faster. The pancakes should be done by now, but they are not. I have to make sure the other two are awake and getting dressed. By 8:00 the pancakes are done and the kids can eat. I have sacrificed my very badly needed shower so my children can have the most important meal of the day. I run upstairs to get dressed and come back down. It is now 8:20 and we have to leave. Alexander is still naked from his “accidentally on purpose” and I toss him into a pair of yellow fleece pants and navy and white striped boat shirt. He’s good to go. The kids haven’t brushed their teeth. I yell at them and shoo them in to the bathroom. Can’t get into the car because the kids are still brushing and they always forget to pull the door shut behind them so I have to wait. Finally at 8:32 we are out of the house. (We are meant to be at school by 8:30.)

We (Alexander and I) are back at the house at 8:40 and I head straight for the kitchen to start to clean up that mess. Alexander is hungry as he did not eat his pancakes and wants, instead, a cheese stick. So I stop what I am doing and give him one. He wants me to sit with him while he eats, so I do. When he is done I head back to the kitchen to finish the breakfast dishes. The phone rings so I turn off the water and go to answer it. While on the phone I decide to check my email. I hang up the phone and remain on the computer a little while. I post what we had for breakfast on the blog, answer a few emails and go back in to the kitchen to do the dishes. Alexander is hungry. Again. I offer up some cut up strawberries and that’s not good enough for him. He wants whipped cream too. The other two would kill me if they found out — I’d have never let them have Reddi Whip at this hour of the morning! He digs in and back I go to the kitchen. I have cleaned the whisk and the metal bowl and the breakfast plates and glasses. I still have the spatula, can opener, griddle and cookie sheet I used to keep the pancakes warm in the oven. Oh and now the dish with the strawberries and whipped cream. Finally the kitchen is clean and we are supposed to go to cooking class. Only Alexander claims to be too tired. Not surprising since from Midnight on he slept quite literally on top of me. I set off to the basement to do some more laundry and fold the clothes that have been in the dryer. But Alexander is touching everything in sight. He pushes the buttons on the microwave and the air purifier. He tries to vacuum. He enjoys pushing the button on the wet/dry Swiffer spraying juice every where. The last straw is when he goes over to the Forbidden Red Light Switch to shut off the furnace. I flick it back on and send Alexander upstairs. I put Goodnight Moon on the television and head back down. I reset the microwave and the air purifier. I put the vacuum cleaner back where it belongs and start to fold when I hear “Mo-mmmmeeeee!” several times. “What?” I should back up the stairs. “Mo-mmmmeeeee, I want some watttttt-er!” Back up I go to get him some water. Can’t ask him to get it himself as I know the outcome will be nothing less than disastrous. Back down I go to fold. Amazingly enough I finish up without another interference. At this point I am thirsty. I need another cup of coffee. The coffeemaker has shut itself off and I prepare another pot. At this point it is 11:00 am and I have been up for nearly 5 hours. What have I done to show for it? made breakfast, cleaned up and folded some laundry! There are still 4 beds to be made, laundry to put away, toys to pick up and the list goes on and on. I’ll spare you the details but the rest of the day — and all of my days — continue as such.

What have you done today?

"Christopher’s Math Homework", or "I Should Eat My Words!"

So he wasn’t figuring out the caloric totals of 6 Mallomars, but one of the questions on Christopher’s 1st grade homework tonight was:

11. BREAKFAST

Food — Amount — Calories

bran flakes — 1 oz — 90

banana — 1 — 105

orange juice — 1 cup — 110

whole milk — 1 cup — 150

Carlos ate 1 oz bran flakes, 1 banana, 1 cup whole milk and 1 cup orange juice. How many calories did he eat? ______455_____

Now, really Carlos should have had skim milk and he could have had a Mallomar as well! Now can you figure out how many calories a glass of skim milk 😉

The Williams-Sonoma Catalog: The Best Things in Life Really are Free!

I am a magazine junkie. I just love the glossies. In my teens and in my twenties my table tops, desk tops and counter tops were piled high with fashion glossies. Lately I have traded haute couture for haute cuisine (or perhaps more like hot cuisine). I can not bear to simply tear out recipes as I know that each magazine is, in itself, a work of art and the result of a lot of talent, effort and hard work. I, for one, appreciate the end result immensely. I have never stopped to figure out how much I spend a year on all my magazine purchases. In this case, like a really decadent treat where you just do not want to know the calorie count, I prefer to remain oblivious.

So, when I get my Williams-Sonoma catalog in the mail I am truly over the moon. I savor my W-S catalog like a child savoring her favorite part of a meal, saving it for last. I toss aside the junk mail and the bills, quickly flip through the others then make sure that I have time to sit and savor my W-S catalog. Sometimes I enjoy it with a nice glass of wine, sometimes with a nice cup of coffee. As though I am about to embark on a great read by a Pulitzer Prize winning author, I immerse myself in the world of W-S! It’s a cookbook, home decorating book, catalog and history book all in one.

Open to page 03 in the February 2008 copy. I can practically taste that gumbo with enormous pieces of sausage and shrimp. I can smell the spices. I want to warm my hands and place them around that bowl filled to the brim right now, never mind that it is just 9:48 in the morning! Directly under the photograph is “the story of gumbo” and to the left of that a bit on the “White boot brigade.” This magazine is brilliant. Every issue I have ever read has been! On page 11 is a recipe for red beans and rice. I want some of this too! And I know Don would die over the Mufuletta recipe on page 15. I place a star next to that recipe.

I flag almost all the recipes and ogle and drool over the latest and greatest kitchen appliances. I want to touch, smell and taste everything I see on the pages. I would love a grown up Scratch’n’Sniff version of this.

My kids have been known to steal my W-S catalog from me. One night, around Christmastime I went up to tuck the kids into bed. There was my almost-seven year old with my Thanksgiving 2007 catalog. He was reading through every thing very carefully, pen in hand circling the things he wanted, the martini olive puffs (!), the spanikopita triangles, the old world salami, and the crab cakes. He also marked up recipes such as easy spaghetti bolognese. “Can we make this one tomorrow, Mama?” He asked? “Sure,” I replied.

I have never in my life made a frittata but I know I just have to have the Calphalon One nonstick frittata pan, and the Calphalon egg poacher, Oh and the Bialetti Mukka Express electric cappuccino maker! My almost seven year old wants the filled pancake pan pictured on page 23. He’s getting one for his birthday! Toward the back of the catalog is pictured the kitchen torch and just above it a recipe for tomato salsa that looks absolutely to die for! The pretty pastel cupcakes with flowers a top are beautiful and look easy enough to make… I make a mental note for future Birthday parties down the road. I love their dish and hand soaps… I make a mental note of all these wonderful things. Until we move from our Crazy Crowded House I have no room for all these wondrous appliances in my kitchen, but with my gift certificates that I have been collecting for a while now, I will be sure to pick up a few of these items when and if we do ever move. Meantime, I have a few new recipes to try in My Crazy Crowded Kitchen.

To get a free catalog of your own, or to peruse their wonderful website go to http://www.williamssonoma.com/

Are You Smarter Than a Third Grader?

My first grader and my third grader are learning multiplication. My third grader is a little more ahead of my first grader but that is to be expected. Since Don is away in Beautiful Sunny Miami on business there is no one here to help the kids with their math homework. Frightening. I am trying my best. I am living, breathing and eating multiplication and word problems. For example:

First grade Math
Mommy was at the computer and had 2 Mallomar cookies. She then got up and went to the kitchen 2 more times and got 2 more cookies each time. How many Mallomar cookies did (piggy) Mommy have?
(answer below)

or Third Grade Math:

Someone’s mother, who shall remain nameless, had 6 Mallomar cookies. Each cookie had 60 calories. How many useless, unecessary calories did this mother inhale?
(answer below)

If you answered 6 to the first question you are at least as smart as a First Grader!

If you answered 360 to the second question you are at least as smart as a Third Grader!

The Great (Vitamin-Packed) Pumpkin Pancakes

Charlie Brown thinks all pumpkins are great and eats these pancakes year round! Of course you could make the batter from scratch, but since there never seems to be enough time in the day, there is nothing wrong with cutting a few corners! You’ll need a box of your favorite Pancake Mix and prepare as indicated on the box.

You’ll add a can of pumpkin puree,
an extra 1/2 – 1 cup of low fat or skim milk, depending on how thick or thin you would like your batter to be,
1 cup of raisins,
1 tsp of allspice,
1 tsp ground cinnamon,
1 tsp ground ginger,
(or 1 tablespoon of pumpkin pie spice will replace the above ingredients)
a sprinkle of sugar
Mix all together

Pour onto the griddle (or pan, but you really should invest in a good stove-top griddle!) using a small ice cream scoop and cook on each side for at least 2 minutes — bubbles will not form with these extra dense pancakes. Flip pancake over, flatten with a spatula and cook another couple of minutes. (These pancakes will take longer to cook than regular pancakes. Do not worry!)When pancakes are cooked place in a warm oven to keep warm until serving.

Topped with a little Maple syrup or lightly sprinkled with confectioners sugar my kids love these pancakes and have no idea how healthy they really are!

Orange Cranberry Cornmeal Shortbread

These cookie were a huge hit at the various cookie exchanges I participated in over the holidays. These are a traditional shortbread cookie made crunchy by the cornmeal. I love the flavor and texture the orange zest and cranberries add. The flavors lend themselves to be a good year-round cookie. Place some on a plate for Santa or package some up for a beach-side lobster bake!

Cranberry Orange Cornmeal Cookies

Ingredients
2 sticks butter, room temp.
1 cup granulated sugar
1 tsp vanilla extract (I always add a touch more!)
1/2 tsp salt
1 1/2 cups of all purpose flour
1/2 cup of cornmeal
zest from 2 oranges (or any citrus)
1 cup dried cranberries

Directions
Beat butter, sugar, vanilla and salt until smooth

Add in flour with mixer on low speed

Stir in orange zest and cranberries

*Divide dough into half and then roll each half into a log. Wrap logs tightly in plastic wrap.

Place in fridge to harden (at least an hour)

Preheat oven to 350 and unwrap logs. With a serrated knife cut into dough — about 1/4 inch thick and place on baking sheet

Bake until lightly golden, about 20 minutes until the outsides are
nicely browned

Cool and xfer on to wire rack.

* Logs can be prepared up to several days in advance, or stored in freezer for future use.

Sunday’s Breakfast: Banana Pancakes with Nutella

Banana Pancakes with Nutella and Fresh Fruit

This recipe is simple and delicious and sure to please everyone in the family.

Follow pancake directions from your favorite pancake recipe. (Because it was on sale I picked up a box of Aunt Jemima Pancake Mix and I will never go back to the old. They were incredibly light and fluffy) I also add a pinch of granulated sugar, about 1/4cup of skim or low fat milk to thin out the batter, and 2 medium, ripe mashed bananas.

I heated my stove top griddle and sprayed it lightly with Pam. Using a small ice cream scoop (the kind used to dish out cookie batter) I scooped the batter on to the already heated griddle.

After a couple of minutes (when you can see air bubbles forming) use a spatula and flip the pancakes over. During this time heat the oven to 200 degrees and place a cookie sheet on the middle rack, so as soon as each pancake is done you can remove them from the griddle or pan and place them into the oven to keep warm. Repeat as needed.

When all the pancakes are cooked top each one with a little bit of Nutella, the chocolaty hazelnut spread, the European version (way better, in my humble opinion) of peanut butter. Garnish the plate with fresh fruit such as chunks of strawberries and cantaloupe.

*Place pancakes on a plate or cooling rack until they reach room temperature, then place in a freezer bag and pull out as needed during the week for breakfast.

**Note: A Certain Celebrity Wife has become richer and famouser by hiding fruit and veggies in her cooking. Some of us have been doing this practically since before Certain Celebrity Wife was born!

Enjoying my evening one Rolo at a time…

The end is here and I made it. I can think of plenty of cheesy songs by various recording artists that would adequately describe what I am feeling, but I will spare you all that. As I sit here eating, savoring each delicious Rolo that I found in my purse I can relax just a little knowing that the long dreary, dreadful weekend is behind me. I have only 2 more bedtimes as a single mother before Don comes home. Not sure why that thought is comforting as I will still be doing all the parenting, disciplining and shouting. Thursday he’ll be gone again. Instead of worrying about what is to come I should celebrate what is behind me. I should pop open a bottle of champagne… at least a bottle of Ambien, but what good will that do me when I know for certain that I little blonde, hazel-eyed toddler will be hollering for me in a few hours forcing me to drag my leaden body out of bed, across the room and hallway and into the nursery, lift up the medicine ball-like weight with hazel eyes and blonde hair and tuck him in to be beside me kissing away any hope for a decent night’s sleep. It’s been two and a half years since I have slept through the night. My toddler is terrified of the dark… One child has a bad dream and another can’t breathe. I tell them all that breathing is over-rated and if enough air can pass your lips so that I can hear and understand what you’re saying, you’re breathing well enough. No one is amused. Funny, I am not amused to get up at 4:00 am and find the appropriate medicines and pour them in the nebulizer’s small medicine cup without spilling. Small children can fall back asleep. Big babies can not. I am the latter. Often my day starts at 4:00 am. If a little blonde boy has been performing bedside calisthenics upon his Mama for the past few hours I may be lucky enough to fall asleep. I have no idea what it feels like to feel well rested. I have no idea what energy is. My Rolos are not giving me energy — not that I want it at 9:30 at night — but they taste mighty good, and are the highlight of my day. I can thank my two year old kleptomaniac for it though. Last week we were at the grocery store, the one I hate. The one where they only have one lane open and 50 people on line. I have no idea why I went there but I did. Alexander was hungry and helped himself to a pack of Rolos. (Good choice) I was about to put them back on the shelf when I noticed he had gnawed away at some of the gold foil and some of the chocolate itself. I let him have that one piece and placed the re-wrapped candy on the conveyor belt. After it had been swiped through the cashier put it aside with my issue of Food — Shhh, I am not supposed to be bringing home any more magazines! I put both in my bag. The magazine came out at home but the Rolos remained zipped away. I was so damned happy to find them. It was better than finding a twenty dollar bill left behind in a raincoat from last spring. As good as a Latte from Starbucks. The Rolos served as a small trophy, my victory over the weekend. My victory over the blue tube of yogurt that Alexander squeezed out and painted all over the kitchen floor. My victory over the gallons of water he poured over it to try to clean it before I would find it. The Rolos were my victory over the bickering kids, over the pee-pee accidents Alexander had non-stop this weekend. They were my victory over actually getting the dishwasher unloaded, baskets of laundry folded and put away. Over getting Rebecca’s hair washed. Over going to a birthday party on the wrong day. The Rolos served as my trophy for not losing it altogether when I found Christopher’s dirty and missing socks behind his bed and in his Power Rangers toys. The Rolos were my reward for finding the strength to make Banana Pancakes and making me kind enough to spread Nutella on top. The Rolos were my reward for every single toy I picked up. And every bed I made. Sadly the Rolos are now all gone. Some reward.