Posted in Mama, Writer

In Case the Grandparents Missed Visiting for Christmas

The important parts of today, in case the grandparents, who couldn’t visit, are feeling left out:

-Husband and I woke up before the kids, since we were so excited. Then, we didn’t want to miss the part where the kids storm into our room to announce it’s Christmas, so we went back to bed and waited for the kids to “wake us up.” Worth it.

-The stockings were full of dollar store finds, and they are probably some of the favorite gifts overall.

-Jocelyn asked Santa for a tiny stuffed cat with “sparkle eyes.” I bought it the day after she asked for it, and she hasn’t stopped carrying it since 6:20 a.m.

-Breakfast was a lot like a pretend tea party, since we set the table, but no one actually ate much. Purely decorative food.

-We staggered the present opening to try and make the excitement last. Stockings. Break. Small gifts. Break. Christmas lunch. Big gifts. It worked out really well- and Husband and I weren’t swamped with stuff to put together or batteries to find all at once.

-Josie loves her 80-piece tea set… that came with 80 stickers for some hapless parent to put on every. single. item. (It was MEEEEEE!)

-Lunch and dinner were easy since our favorite foods are macaroni and cheese, turkey sandwiches, and bratwursts. I didn’t even bake anything. The house is already overflowing with goodies that will seem out of date tomorrow (Candy cane fudge on December 26th? I don’t think so).

-Noah is playing his new video game every chance he gets. Pretty sure he’s going to turn into a Pokémon.

-We purposefully did nothing but play at home today. It was interesting. I, the watcher of almost no T.V. (besides cooking shows and my kids cartoons- which I admittedly love) watched two movies today. TWO.).

-The kids just helped me take all of the candy treats off the tree. We put them in a big bowl to munch on tonight.

-Husband and I plan to take the tree down after the kids’ bedtimes.

-Tomorrow is my birthday, which will help all of us transition out of Christmas mode. The party doesn’t have to end. It goes on without a tree- and with a more varied color scheme. I think I want a Carolina blue cake with sunflowers on it.  

We missed you, grandparents. The kids asked about you, and we’ll probably call soon. We’ll rehash some holiday highlights. If we skype, get ready for an intense closeup of a kitty with sparkle eyes.

I hope you had a Merry Christmas!

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Posted in Cooking Irresponsibly, Mama, Writer

The Magical, Kid-Proof, Sugar Cookie Cutout Recipe

My kids have always helped me bake. They stir, operate the mixer, measure, and decorate. My daughter especially loves it.

We used to try to do the traditional, Christmas-card, sugar cookie process. The kids were still really small, though, and it was always a mess.

A lot of recipes call for softening butter, so you have to plan for your cookies 3 hours in advance, or do a complicated boil-water-put-it-in-a-glass-for-a-minute-pour-it-out-and-place-it-upside-down-over-a-stick-of-butter-for-a-while-and-hope-for-the-best dance. Neither worked well for me and my kids.

The recipes also want you to chill the dough. How does this sound:

Me: let’s make cookies!

Kids: Yes!!!

(measure and mix. Dough goes into the refrigerator)

Me: Now, we just wait for two hours.

(Sad faced children)

It never worked out anyway. Since those recipes need the dough to stay cold, me and my littles were racing the clock to get everything rolled and cut. I wanted my kids to be included in the process, and little hands need time to get things done.

Then, there’s the fact that you have to flour the board. Normally that wouldn’t be a problem. With kids, though, the stickiness factor quadruples, and, no matter what I do, we end up with cookies that taste like cardboard and look nothing like the cookie cutters.

Too little chilling. Too much rolling. Too much flour.

(If you’re in a similar boat, maybe because your kids are just really little, I suggest cheating. Make rice crispy treats (or buy a sheet of the things), cut with cookie cutters, and use store-bought tubes of icing. You can make memories, and stuff should still end up edible.)

Then, there came the magical recipe that made traditional sugar cookie baking and decorating possible with even my tiny children. I found it on Pinterest many moons ago, and it’s thanks to this recipe that my kids and I have made forest cookies, pumpkins, acorns, candy canes, Christmas trees, hearts, and Easter eggs.

The butter can be just a little softened. No chilling needed. Roll, cut, and add flour, flour, flour, and they still somehow taste like tender, buttery cookies and still look just like the cookie cutter.

I have had no contact with the writer before, and I’m not sure if she knows what a gift this recipe is; she doesn’t even mention baking with children throughout her whole description/instructions. I’m grateful, though.

Here’s to you, Katrina’s Kitchen, and your “Best Sugar Cookie Recipe Ever.” Because of you we have made wonderful baking memories, and, without you, we would have eaten a whole heck of a lot of rice crispy treats. I look forward to Christmas cookies soon.

Here’s the page (check out her shortening frosting recipe, too): http://www.inkatrinaskitchen.com/best-sugar-cookie-recipe-ever

 

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When their hands were just strong enough to start trying to use the piping bag- but they also made the cookies. And the cookies are perfect. 
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My daughter’s “sprinkle cookies”
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We substituted some flour for cocoa powder to make some Easter colors really pop.
Posted in Mama, Writer

Traveling with Kids: Where’s My Teleporter?

Traveling with kids has some challenges. I was thinking today, that if I could design a special car to cover all of the needs of a family with littles, I would end up with an RV.

A house with wheels.

Tuesday, Husband and I packed everything imaginable for our family to travel four hours away and stay a couple of nights at my parents’ house. On the way there, we stopped for fast food.

While munching nuggets, my son confesses he’s actually really sick, but he’s been hiding it. He was scared we would cancel our trip if we knew.

Husband and I had packed the car to the brim- but we were still unprepared for that surprise.

Once we got to my mom’s, my son had deteriorated to the point that, if my mom hadn’t already happened to have a thermometer, I would have had to go get one right away.

My daughter started coughing the next morning.

We were all beyond lucky that our destination was my mom’s house. My parents are accommodating and understanding. They helped us through, and my family is home again today, comfy, albeit sniffly.

I can’t help but feel connected to the parents still in it this weekend. So many people won’t do the travel thing until Saturday or Sunday. So many have further to go. So many have smaller kids.

We need teleporters, y’all. Forget the flying car. I bet our littles would still be carsick in those, anyway. In the future, an “RV” won’t cut it. We literally need home to travel with us. 

Until then, parents, when you’re out there in it, you have all my sympathy.

I see you pulled over letting the sick kid be sick.

I see you pulling out an easy mac as your picky kid sits down to grandma’s 8-course dinner.

I see you trying to put your light sleeper down on a pull-out couch while, downstairs, the party continues at a jolly volume.

I, too, see the line at the gas station restroom, and I, too, pray your kid “makes it.”

Solidarity, parents. If I see you, I’ll share my saltines and wipes.

And don’t forget- there is a light at the end of the tunnel. You’ll be home eventually.  

Posted in Mama, Writer

Smile and Nod (with love): Holiday Edition

Daily blogging is illuminating how much I think in the form of lists. They’re therapeutic, and they catch a lot of reality.

Some people are talking about how they’re dreading holiday political talk with the family. If that were to happen, and it isn’t unheard of with my lot, I intend to let my eyes glaze over and start planning next semester’s syllabus (I already know who I’m voting for).

Fortunately, politics isn’t my family’s number one thing. So, if my syllabus is thoroughly planned before Christmas vacation, the reasons will more likely be my siblings and parents discussing:

-Game of Thrones

-Superhero movies I haven’t seen

-Football

-Anything someone’s seen on YouTube

-Game of Thrones (yes, I know. They’re SO into it).

I’m just going to let it happen. Internally, though, I’m going to be the Homer Simpson disappearing backwards into a bush meme.

I don’t need spoiler alerts. These lovely humans don’t need to accommodate me. I’m just going to nod and try to figure out whether or not to include a classwork grade… with love, of course.

Posted in Mama, Writer

When the Grinch Decks the Halls: a Holiday Paradox

I didn’t know people like my husband existed. He’s a special one.

I mean that for all of the wonderful reasons, of course. But there’s more. He’s unusual because he has this habit of saying curmudgeony things, sometimes just to stir up trouble, even though his actions are the exact opposite of curmudgeony.

If you listened to him expound on philosophy, you’d think he was an uncaring robot who feels nothing from watching the world tear itself to pieces. If you overheard him talking about the holidays, ANY HOLIDAY, you’d probably feel a sudden welling of sympathy for his poor, “deprived” children.

Then, if you plugged your ears, you would see a man who is tirelessly, obsessively caring. His staggering powers of observation make him more empathetic than the most well-meaning people I know, and his inability to be lazy spills over into service for others.

But that mouth, though.

He will argue with me for days, literally days, about buying pumpkins to make jack-o’-lanterns.

“We don’t need them.”

“They’re messy. They go bad after a couple of days.”

“Just let the kids paint the little ones.”

“Okay, but we’ll just get one. You can do it. I don’t want to.”

And every single year, it’s Husband, with his tongue between his teeth, carefully cleaning, carving, oohing and aahing with the kids, taking pictures, and lighting the thing. Every. Year.

pumpkin

He likes to talk about how he wouldn’t help anyone, or even tell anyone, if he won the lottery jackpot. In his opinion, people would only be needier in the presence of that kind of windfall.

Then, when a friend or family member falls on hard times, he’ll wordlessly pass me an envelope and nod in said friend or relative’s direction.

Today, I came home to see he had already put up our Christmas tree. He was waiting for me and the kids to decorate it.

I remembered when we first got married, and I had to convince him to buy a tree.

Today, the kids and I came home to a tree. We all went to the store to pick out an ornament for this year. While shopping, Husband also took the kids to the toy aisle, letting me grab some groceries in peace.

I called when I was headed to the checkout, and, 2 minutes later, Husband and the kids come hustling, panting and heaving, so the kids could throw some new toys on the conveyor belt behind my groceries.  

I raised my eyebrow at Husband, who had recently talked about how materialistic society was ruining kids’ lives. He’d even mentioned cutting back on Christmas toys.

 All he did was shrug as we paid for the cartload.  

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Playing with Their New Toys

We came home, and as I started to help the kids decorate the tree, I felt a bit tired. I didn’t have to say anything. Husband just noticed, like he does, and stepped in.

In the time it took me and the kids to trim a tree, Husband had cleared the dinner dishes, set up the kids’ stockings with new hooks over the fireplace, spread our decorations through the house, and even spent a painstaking hour stringing our Christmas lights on tiny hooks through the hallways.

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Husband did everything from build the tree, arrange the skirt, dig out AND deliver the box of decorations. I hardly moved.

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20171116_194611.jpg It’s one of those magical, cosmic miracles- God gave me my husband before he had a solid grasp of the English language. While we were getting to know each other, it was very much “actions over words.” I never had a chance to believe his curmudgeony stances. All I knew was how wonderful he actually was. He showed me. Telling me (and my subsequent eyerolling) came later.

I’m so grateful for the timing.

And I don’t mind that this heart-of-gold man has a hobby of picking curmudgeony fights. That suits my own super-stubborn, dig-in, inexhaustibly argumentative self to a T.

We were made for each other.

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