Life: Words Of Wisdom For Freshmen Moms

acceptcrazy

Who knew motherhood had levels, but in case you haven’t heard, I made Varsity this Fall.  My kids are now eleven, nine, and eight.  By definition, so much in life is designed for “ages eight & up,” therefore all moms who get to this milestone surely deserve to self-promote themselves to Varsity motherhood.  There have been so many adventures, mishaps, days I wish I could re-do, and days I wish had never ended since our first baby girl arrived almost twelve years ago.

From time to time. I meet adorable moms-to-be who are inquisitive and want to know where to get the best hand-me-downs, or which pediatrician I like best in our practice.  I also encounter the holier-than-thou Freshman crowd, and these moms could especially benefit from a little dose of reality from we veteran moms.  They’re the ones who write you off as dated because you used a bumper in your kids’ cribs and insist that your 8 year-old jogger should be taken off the road because it’s a little rusty.  Regardless of which group you fit into, know this: becoming a mom automatically enrolls us all into a special sisterhood that binds us together.  You can embrace those of us who have traveled your path, or push us away, but the reality is that we are all in this together.  We Varsity moms want to love you, guide you, and embrace you when you stumble or fall like those before did for us.  We will celebrate success with you, and we applaud your efforts because we know it’s not easy.

As my teammates will attest to, Varsity motherhood is not for the faint of heart.  I’ve lived through blow-out diapers that went up the back, through the hair, and even into the ears.  I’ve been peed on, stepped on, had my hair pulled, been bit, drooled on, and kicked.  I’ve been told it’s all my fault at least 10,000 times, been hugged and kissed 100,000 times, and worried about my kids 1,000,000 times or more.  I’ve had toddlers at the door crying as I drove away, preschoolers calling me on the phone to tell me they miss me, and older kids writing me at home from camp telling me they don’t miss me, and can they please go all summer next year? I’ve cleaned both chunky and watery vomit off four of my rugs, I’ve combed lice out of hair, and I’ve taken off about a dozen ticks. I’ve cooked hundreds of meals that were epic failures, as I listened to tiny and desperate voices trying convince me they would most certainly die if they have to eat a dinner that looks like barf.  I’ve made a zillion mistakes, and so often felt sure of myself only to realize later that I had not a clue what I was doing.

Getting to this level requires patience, tenacity, and above all, a sense of humor.  If I have one message for the Freshman crowd, it’s this:  Stop taking yourselves so seriously. 

Go crazy grinding up that homemade baby food.  A lot of us were once Freshman fools like you, cutting and steaming squash in the kitchen, taking up all the ice trays, all for a week worth of mush.  Halfway through the process, the baby is screaming to be nursed, your milk is letting down, but you press onward, determined to be a gold-star mom.  Have fun with that.  Some of us figured out early on that organic baby food did the trick just fine and was in fact cheaper, while others handed out baby food recipes at moms groups and mashed up so much food that they had leftovers for their 91 year-old grandmothers.  Several years from now when your kids break you down in the Devil Dog aisle, it will dawn on you that you can either be that fun mom who introduces them to a classic bit of American junk food or you can go down burning as the lame neighborhood mom who serves fresh celery and carrot sticks when friends come over.   It’s your choice, but consider the words of Billy Joel, “The sinners are much more fun.”  I’m confident you will evolve into a Varsity gal who won’t disappoint.

You go right ahead and brag about how your preschooler is SUCH a good helper.  Are you the chatterbox going on and on at a holiday party about how amazing your three-year old is at putting away the blocks for you at the end of the day?  As the church lady used to say, “Well, isn’t that special?”  I laugh out loud at my younger self, thinking about some of the blanket statements I made insinuating that my kids were destined to help out at any given opportunity.  Before you know it. you’ll be asking one of your children to unload the dishwasher and she will promptly reply, “No. I don’t feel like it.  I’ve had a tough day.”  This will be followed by another child claiming, “I’m just too tired to help out right now.” Your final child, who is supposed to be setting the table, will protest in a whiny and snide voice, “I’ll only consider doing it if you pay me.”  Someday, you’ll be equipped with the Varsity skills to either respond to this mutiny with style and grace or to determine it’s a good time to open up some wine and head for the hills.

Mom-and-me music classes are only the beginning of the singing.  Are you often overheard touting the benefits of music for the very young in regards to language development?  Do you think it’s cute how the entire family is singing “Circle to the left, old brass wagon” together after dinner? When my kids were little, I thought  parents who let their kids listen to inappropriate lyrics must be sub-par individuals.   Let me be the first to tell you that the days of gentle lullaby music will soon be a distant memory, and boy, will your kids language develop!  Whether you like it or not, the trashy music knows where you live, and will permeate your home in no time.  Someday, not long from now, you will be driving your kids to school and in unison, from the back, you will hear a chorus of loud and enthusiastic voices belting out, “My anaconda don’t want none unless you got buns, hun.  OH. MY. GOD.  LOOK AT HER BUTT.”  You’ll be a Varsity mom then, and after you give a brief lecture about some of the words not being very nice, you’ll join in and sing along.

You sound like a brown-noser bragging at Parents’ Night about how your first-born son (who is 6) reads Harry Potter and seems very drawn to academics.  How lovely that your son sits nicely on the couch, all polite and academic, reading advanced books while you cook up an elaborate stew with 36 ingredients for dinner.  Newsflash: the varsity crowd hears you, and we are rolling our eyes at you.  That 6 year-old son of yours is going to turn into a 9 year-old before you can count to 100, or so it will seem.  When he does, he will become obsessed with farting at any and all waking moments of his life.  He will do fake ones on his arm, real ones on you or on his siblings, or best of all, at his favorite place to rip them: the dinner table.  His mission in life will be clear: to entertain you and annoy you whenever possible.  You will engage in a mental battle of epic proportions over the fact that he is displaying horrible manners and you will think long and hard about how you can get him to stop.  As you move through JV motherhood, you may even Google some websites about how to deal with boys and their unpredictable antics.  Alas, he will wear you down with his sweet freckled smile, bright eyes, and chortling laugh.  When he has farted so many times in a row during dinner that you feel even yourself cracking up, you’ll be a Varsity mom, and you’ll let the whole team off the hook.  You, your husband, and the entire rest of the family will be doubled over with laughter until you all have tears streaming down your face.  It will indeed be hilarious, and you’ll know deep down that he is a sweet boy who cares about others and uses his manners, even if never at home.

Varsity motherhood will be here before you know it, and when it’s your turn, I hope the newly indoctrinated Freshman crowd will be leaning on you for help to move the torch along to the next generation.  You will be amazed at how good it feels to have them looking up to you, and I promise your journey will feel that much more rewarding.  Collectively, we can be so much, laughing all the way of course.

Some of the freshman moms reading this will continue to insist they will never end up living out some of the realities I describe above.  Rest assured, ten years from now I’ll be winking at you in my rear view mirror, smiling back at you in a good-humored-sort-of-way.  You may even hear me say, “See!  I told you so!”

xo,

Brooke

Eat: Five-Minute Chicken

5minchicken

In college, all the guys went to a hair dresser in town called five-minute Linda.  While you can speculate about where they came up with the name, the word on the street was that she could give a great trim in a short amount of time.  This earned her a positive reputation: quick and good.  This is my mantra when it comes to cooking dinner.

Cooking dinner for my family is something that stresses me out almost on a daily basis.  While I’d love to be able to tell you I have some cute little spreadsheet with meals planned out weeks in advance, as I write, I don’t even know what we are going to have to eat tonight.

This dish is delicious and easy.  You can make this in five minutes or less, let it marinate all day, and if you make extra, you’ve even got lunch for the next day.

My new find is chicken thighs.  I’m kind of over breasts for right now (my own included if we’re going to be open about things).  This recipe can be made with boneless or bone-in thighs.  I’ve baked them and grilled them.  I would vote for the oven over the grill.  If you do grill them, I’d say about 5 minutes per side on medium heat.

Here is what you need:

6-8 chicken thighs of choice

4 TBSP honey (I prefer raw)

6 tsp garlic (in a jar, much faster than the real deal and works just fine in my opinion).

1 TBSP dried parsley (who has time to wash and cut fresh?  Maybe when my kids go to college).

1 C Olive Oil (Olive Oil is a staple item.  It runs my kitchen like gas runs my car.  Keep lots on hand).

1/2 tsp red pepper flakes (Add more if your family likes spice).

Mix all ingredients and pour over chicken.  Cover and refrigerate.

Marinate all day if you can, or at least an hour.  Bake for 25 minutes at 425 degrees, or grill.  Grilling does not hold the flavor as well, but it would be better over a salad.

Enjoy your (quick) dinner!

xo,

Brooke

 

DIY: $10 Art With My Daughter

I love doing art projects with my kids.  I’m a self-admitted crafting junkie, and I love to sit and watch as they create masterpieces.

A couple of years ago we went on a lovely trip for my mother-in-law’s 70th birthday to South Seas on Captiva Island, Florida.  (aside: if you’ve never been there, it’s a great spot for families: www.southseas.com).  The beach is gorgeous, and there are tons and tons of shells.  Here is a small sampling of what we brought home:

shells4

My daughter is 7, and decided recently that she really wanted to do something with a few of her favorites.  It was a fun and simple project and required very little time.  Here’s what you need:

suppliesshells

You will also need some type of flat wood you can paint in advance, depending on your desired size.  We got our piece at A.C. Moore and it was around $2.00.  Simply paint the wood and let it dry.  Then, arrange your shells.  Use the glue to adhere your shells (note, it smells terrible and should be used in a well-ventilated area).  I ordered the glue on Amazon.  Let it dry overnight.  Find a ribbon that you like, and staple it to the back.  Be sure to measure so that it is centered for proper hanging.

Here’s the finished product.  It’s simple and small, but my daughter is very proud of it.  It looks very cute hanging on her wall above her bed.  I dated the back with a Sharpie because I know before I blink again, she will be heading off to college and I want to remember when we made it.

shellroom  shellonwall

Happy creating!

xo,

Brooke

 

Life: Defining My Blog

agoal

I remember my first job out of college like it was yesterday.  I was a territory manager for Revlon, visiting drug and grocery chains on a daily basis taking orders and merchandising rows and rows of makeup.  At our first training session in Detroit (where our manager was based), we were asked to write down our goals.  I’d never done this for a job, and it seemed daunting to set them. Not crash the company car?  Turn in my expense reports on time?  Learn how to set up a plan-o-gram?  Eventually I figured out there was a bonus program, and I set my sights on that.  I wrote it down, and within six months was cashing my first big check.

I’ve been told many times since then that if you write down your goals, your chances of success go up exponentially.  I thought I would take a minute to share my goals for my blog.  A conversation with a friend has stuck with me, prompting this post.

She commented that she wished I were writing more essays about motherhood on a more consistent basis. It definitely started as a way for me to write about motherhood, and I certainly want to be more consistent about posting.  When I started, my children were 2, 4, and 6.  The days were long and I felt in the weeds most of the time.

I still have tales of motherhood as a primary goal, but now I also have more time and am interested in blogging about additional topics.

I enjoy writing my blog because it’s constantly evolving.  I also find comfort in knowing I have one place to write everything down, whether it’s a tale about motherhood or a recipe a friend gave me to try.  The therapeutic part for me is knowing it’s all here, as evidence that I (hopefully) made a small and meaningful contribution to the world.

My goals:

*Share my stories about motherhood: raising kids, love and marriage, and all things family.

*Share my love of all things creative: DIY, sewing, crafting, painting.

*Share great recipes as I find them and try them.

*Share great book ideas.  I love to read, and my kids do too.

*In all areas, start to receive more feedback from my readers.

I hope you’ll keep visiting.  I love and value all of your support!

xo,

Brooke

 

Life: What Remains Behind

luckygoodbye

This summer was an epic one.  We had gorgeous New England weather, with many brilliant beach days and endless time together outside.  We closed it out with a week of fun adventures as a family at our cabin in Maine hiking and swimming.  As the summer wound down, we recently reflected on funny stories from the kids baby and toddler years.  We found ourselves talking about Market Basket, which has been a hot news topic all summer long.  I have shopped there since moving to the North Shore almost twelve years ago.  I recounted a story where I once left approximately $150 worth of groceries in my cart because my oldest child had come apart at the seams, screaming and thrashing so loudly that there was no chance I would be able to successfully complete my shopping.  She was probably two, at a time when negotiating with her was totally out of the question.  The story stands out vividly in my mind like it happened yesterday, among a long string of other fiascos that I endured in the early years.

That once-toddler went off to 6th grade on Wednesday, sporting a cute pink sundress with matching earrings.  I think I even saw evidence of some lip gloss.  My husband and I walked home from the bus stop after she and her now 4th and 2nd grade siblings had hopped on the bus.  He promptly drove off to work.  I walked into a home filled with breakfast dishes still not totally put away, two loads of laundry awaiting my attention, and a deafening silence.

Sending my kids back to school has always felt like they are being ripped away from me.  I don’t easily readjust to the routine that comes with schoolwork, curfews, and sports practices.  I’m very happy in my summer cocoon, removed from the scene about town, so as soon as I felt the silence of Wednesday I felt the ache.

By noon on Wednesday I was picking my 4th grade son up at school with a fever and what seemed like the flu,  While I felt terrible he was down for the count, I secretly embraced the fact that I would have some more precious time with him.  I’ve spent the last two days holding him, making him smoothies, and just hanging out together while he heals.  By Monday, we’ll be back on track into our normal school routine.

Nobody talks much about the silence and the loneliness that fills many of us as our children transition to full-time school.  Instead they talk about the abundance of free time, as if suddenly your calendar is cleared of all obligations. You start running into people who are aware of your supposed new-found freedom and they inquisitively ask, “So, what are you going to do with yourself now?”, sometimes in tone that insinuates the stay at home gig is up, and perhaps you should really make something of your time.

It’s a big transition, and while we want our children to excel and grow, what remains behind are feelings of loss and longing for times that once seemed like they would never end yet now have slipped away for good.  When your kids leave for full-time school, it’s no different from being part of a company restructuring process.  In this case, Mom & Co, is establishing new hours and scaled back responsibilities during the day, but often an increase in hands-on work after school.  What some outsiders quickly forget is that there is still a tremendous amount of “behind the scenes” work that goes into keeping a household afloat.  After eleven years at my gig, I can proudly and confidently say that I work a more-than-full-time job, even as my daytime hours are opening up.

My best advice is that you take the time to celebrate reaching this milestone while also regrouping emotionally. Once a few weeks go by, you may find yourself enjoying that extra free time.  Don’t feel guilty for one second!  Think back on the early days when you couldn’t shower, or you changed 3 blow-out diapers in 3 hours, or you spent the afternoon in the ER getting your preschooler stitched up.  You’ve done the time, so if you can, enjoy coasting on cruise control for a bit as you consider what is next.

Make no mistake: The nature of your role will change, but they will always need you.  You’ll find your way, and whether you transition back to full-time, part-time work or decide to stay at home, one thing will remain true: even though you’re the one feeling left behind, no matter how many years go by, a piece of you will always be with them.

This was confirmed by the cashier at CVS the other day who told me her kids are now 31 and 29.  “Ooh,” I said, in a sympathetic voice, certain she must be sad that they have grown up and flown the nest, She shook her head, as if to stop me, and said, “No, it just gets better.  Being a mother changes over the years, but it’s awesome forever!”

xo,

Brooke

 

Life: Find The Good

everydayisgood

It was our annual “Anything Day” yesterday, a special day I plan with our three kids towards the end of every summer.  They ate pop tarts and cupcakes for breakfast, and lots of treats throughout the day. We visited Water Country, and rode the slides, basking in the glorious August day together.  They watched tons of TV, closing out the day with a Robin Williams classic, Flubber.

Unfortunately, last night the kids were tired and bickering.  The night wound down in an explosive argument, after a day that had been riddled with fighting.  Before the night ended, everyone gathered in the family room (G. was traveling).  I calmly explained that it’s never a good idea to go to bed angry.  We went around in a circle, and quietly talked about what we were each sorry for.

As we started to go around the circle, I could tell that everyone clearly felt awful.  It was a culmination of things that had made “Anything Day” feel like an unappreciative, whiny, “I Want Everything Day.”  I don’t know who felt the worst, but it could have been me.  I yelled at them in the middle of the explosive argument, and I haven’t done that for close to three weeks.  For almost three weeks I have spoken in a quiet voice, taking the time to resolve issues, while arguably gaining more love and respect from them along the way.

Each child did a wonderful job of redeeming themselves, their little pink noses and quivering lower lips indicated that they internalized what they had done wrong and felt deeply sorry.  Their comments were well intended and thoughtful.  They all wanted to be hugged.

It was only after I yelled that I realized how toxic raising your voice feels.  As well, it’s the easy way out.  It’s the way of saying, “I’m the boss here and I don’t need to deal with this crap right now.”  It comes out in the same loud and scary way that a barking dog can abruptly startle you while out on a run.  I know because like most people my age, I was yelled at a lot as a child.  It’s a lazy way to not have to deal with the hard conversations, and more often than not you just look like a jackass.  I was yelled at by my parents, my grandparents, and even my teachers back then.

Yelling is like rushing to write a term paper and turning it in before the last three rounds of editing are done.  If you looked back at the paper later, you’d quickly see that it really wasn’t what you wanted to say or how you wanted to say it.  If you’d taken your time, it could have been so much stronger.

Parenting is learning that you can make the hard choices or take the easy way out.  It’s OK to go scream in the basement or go sit in your car and cry tears of frustration.  And, yes, it’s OK to yell at your kids.  Many people feel it is their right to do so whenever they want to and however they want to.  They are yours, after all, and they will be alright because of it.  However, consider how much better they and you could be if you force yourself to take the time to wade through the incredible amounts of patience required to keep your voice down and model mature behavior.

Disagreements aside, there were plenty of wonderful moments from our “Anything Day.”  I rode several of the slides with the kids, screaming our heads off as we tore down dark tunnels, our feet dangling from purple inner tubes.  On three separate occasions, each of my children thanked me for bringing them there, and told me it was so much fun.

When I tucked my oldest in, she was still sniffling, and said she couldn’t stop feeling badly about the day.  I sat on the side of her bed, feeling half sick to my stomach that this first baby of mine is headed off to sixth grade in two weeks.  I watched her long legs stretching out in the bed, reaching that much closer to the bottom.  The other half of me felt sick over the reality that as a mother you endure big successes and big failures over and over again from the day you become one until the day you die.  You don’t realize until you get rolling exactly what you have signed up for.  And, some days, the failures just hurt.

Instead of bringing her into all that I was thinking, I reassured her in a hushed voice, “The good news is that tomorrow is a new day”  She agreed, but still seemed stuck on all that hadn’t worked out.  I leaned over and whispered in her ear, “There was lots of good. Find the good in every day.  OK?”  I said it again, slowly, and this time she nodded her head, as I stood up to leave her room.

Find the good in every day.

xo,

Brooke

DIY: Cleaning Muffin Tins

I’ll admit it:  I ALWAYS leave the muffin tin overnight.  “It’s a soaker,” I say in a resigned voice, before heading up to bed.  The next morning, I come down, hoping that the crumbs have come loose like they always seem to effortlessly do in the Dawn commercials.  Sadly, it never happens this way.  Usually about half of the residue is left behind.  So, I soak it again, and scrub some more, and wait again.  This goes on for a few tries until I either settle for it being 80% clean, or I’ve scrubbed nonstop for what seems like forever.

You would not think it would take me 42 years to figure out that there is a much simpler way to deal with this, and maybe you all are way ahead of me.  When I make muffins like this, I am often left with a real mess.

Today I tried baking powder and I don’t think I will ever go back to store-bought dish soap when dealing with tins.  I mixed about 1/2 cup with a couple of splashes of very hot water.  I gently scrubbed, and it worked very well.

I also just read that as soon as you take your muffins out of the pan, another option is to immediately fill them with water and stick back in the hot oven for 10-15 minutes.  I haven’t tried that yet, but I will soon.

Finally, a clean muffin pan.  It’s the little things, people!

muffin2

xo,

Brooke

Eat: My very favorite pie

My very favorite pie is Ina Garten’s frozen key lime pie.  I made it for G’s birthday and we usually lick the pan clean.  If you are in need of a delicious dessert, look no further.  It’s hard to ever go wrong with Ina Garten.  I own every cookbook she has ever written, and have found so many recipes that are tried and true.

Here is my pie…

keylime

Speaking of pie, I am looking for a really good blueberry pie recipe.  Do you have one you can share?

Happy pie-making!

xo,

Brooke

Life: The Wonderful Goodness Of Summer

flowersjuly
THE WONDERFUL GOODNESS OF SUMMER: A SHORT LIST (FOR NEW ENGLANDERS).

1. The loud cacophony of seagulls over the harbor.

2. The booming clap of thunder at dusk as a storm rolls in.

3. The smell of Coppertone sunscreen.

4. The ear-splitting crack of a bat at Fenway Park followed by a raucous crowd brought to their feet after a fabulous hit.

5. The deafening sound of the horn as the ferry leaves the dock headed to Block Island.

6. The joy of sand.  Everywhere.  In your car, your house, your shoes, and maybe even in your sandwich.

7. How gorgeous your hair looks and smells after you swim in the ocean.
8.  Cutting fresh flowers from your garden.
9.  Taking an outdoor shower.
10.  Late nights around a campfire with friends and family watching the embers drift north towards the magnificent sky.
xo,
Brooke

 

DIY: Sew A Burp Cloth (In 30 Minutes Or Less!)

Just when I thought nobody I knew was going to have another baby, a friend in town had an adorable girl a few weeks ago.  I made her my absolute favorite gift to give: burp cloths.  All moms know how vital these are for survival during those first six months, so you might as well have something stylish on hand!

This is a PERFECT project for a beginner looking to sew something fun and useful!

Don’t need a baby gift to make but love this idea?  Repurpose an old hand towel with a strip of fun fabric and use it to dry dishes and glasses next to your sink!

Resources:  My favorite place to shop for fabric is http://www.onlinefabricstore.net/ (I recommend 100% cotton fabric for this project).  My favorite spot to buy ribbon and trim is Les Bon Ribbon. http://www.lesbonribbon.com/

I am partial to Gerber pre-fold Heavy Weight Gauze Cloth Diapers.  I like how soft they are after a few washings.  I recommend buying a set and washing, drying, and ironing each cloth you plan to sew.  This way, they will be good to go and can be cleaned with all of the baby’s other soiled items.

Start by measuring and cutting out a rectangle shape of fabric, approximately 6 1/2 x 18 1/2.  This will allow a 1/2 inch seam allowance on all sides.  Line the fabric up accordingly, press, and pin in place like this:

burp1

Don’t worry if it’s not perfect.  I’ve never found a burp cloth that was an exact rectangle, so just do the best you can to make it look even.  Then, sew all the way around, using a 3/8 inch or smaller seam allowance…

buro2

When you are done, press the cloth and fold.  Voila, you are done!  This is the “base” style, and if you’re really short on time, or like the simplicity, stop here!

burp3

If you have time, now the real fun begins.  You can add trims and ribbons to your liking.  Here is my completed set.  Note, I did one with the first initial of the baby’s name.  Simply print a letter out in a font you like.  Trace it onto the fabric you will use for the letter, then cut it out.  Hint:  You will need really small, sharp scissors to cut it out well.  Press and pin it onto the cloth where you want it.  Using a zig-zag stitch, sew around the letter in the matching thread color.

redoburp1

Now, all I need to do is make her a card…

redoburps2

 

Have fun sewing!

xo,

Brooke