Monday, April 30, 2012

Recipe Monday - Pasta Faggioli

No finished photo...I forgot. But here it is mid-cooking.

One bag of 15-bean soup
Onions
Carrots
Celery
Spinach
Pasta
Garlic
Salt and Pepper
Ham Seasoning
Italian seasoning
Diced Tomatoes with juice
1 can tomato sauce
Ham chunks
10 cups water

Boil the water, then throw the beans in. After an hour, throw in everything else. Simmer for three hours. That's it!


 

Sunday, April 29, 2012

Moment of the Week - 90: Three Years of Hair

In celebration of their first haircut, I give you, three years of hair from my girls! (Or lack thereof).

November, 2008 - 3 months old


February, 2009 - 6 months old

October, 2009
14 months old










March, 2010 - 21 months old

August 2010, 2 years old


November 2010, 2 years, 3 months

April 2011, 2.75 years old

October 2011, 3.25 years

April 2012, 3.75 years



 

Saturday, April 28, 2012

Toddler Tricks - 90: Go Second

Problem: I don't know if this is a twin thing or not, but in this house, going second is the ultimate punishment. It is a slight to character, an insult to humanity. And the girls have quickly realized that if one of them gets to go first, the other one must be going second. The horror! With only one sink, this makes teeth-brushing a chore. With only one downstairs bathroom, going potty is torture. Taking turns with a toy has gone from precarious niceties to automatic tantrums because "She always goes first," and "Now, I'm going second."

 Solution: To circumvent this, I end up going second a lot. Mommies are meant to go second, I think. This is only going to work for so long. As of now, I can convince them that they are both going first and mommy is going second. They grudgingly accept that, but you can tell they know it isn't right.

A longer term solution, which hopefully will work better as they grow, is taking turns taking turns. So that if one twin goes first for something, the next twin goes first for the next thing. Then you can remind them. "Dulce, you went first getting dressed this morning, so Lilly will go first to get her chocolate milk. Lilly, you went first for your drink, so Dulce will go first washing her hands."

Just make sure you don't forget who went first the time before! That way leads to tears.

We have an even more complicated organization, where firsts are categorized. There are food firsts, bathroom firsts, games firsts, and clothing firsts. And the turns are specific to each category. I'm trying to whittle all this down because that's a lot of firsts to remember. But even when I mess up, I'm able to tell them, "don't worry, mommy will go second."

"Is mommy also thumbs down, and I'm thumbs up?"

Mommy takes a lot of guff, I'd say.

___
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Friday, April 27, 2012

Writing stuff time. I've noticed that editors hate adverbs, and maybe readers do, too. Here's why.


I stood resolutely in my pro-adverb stance. I loved the adverbs fiercely, truly, emphatically.

When a character said something, they said it annoyingly or brashly, sometimes harshly. If they were happy, they'd wave ecstatically, nod excitedly, jump up and down feverishly.

I stubbornly jutted out my chin. Desperately, I needed someone to take up the fight for adverbs. There I was, happily scribbling away, each word hungrily yearning to make it to the page until I realized how pretentiously boring they all sounded and erased them.

 Read more:



 

Thursday, April 26, 2012

Imaginary Enemies

Some kids have imaginary friends. Mine have pretend enemies.

Maybe it's because they're twins and have a built-in playmate that they don't need to expand their social group to those characters solely in their minds. Or maybe it's because their loveys, Bear and Bean, are friends enough for them, the high-pitched squeals of the teddy bear and blanket often voicing the more babyish views of my growing children. When one of them is afraid of something, their lovey tells me that it's afraid. When they want to throw tantrums, it's Bear or Bean at the forefront, doing the most misbehaving. Any notion my children deem beneath them is awarded to their loveys.

Of course, the stuffed animal and battered blanket are also the girls' main audience for their shows. They're the object of many feedings, and naps. Many times, the loveys will find themselves cordoned off in the bedroom while the girls "go to the gym" or "go grocery shopping."

The imaginary enemies, though, are different. The witch and the monster have traditional roles in our household. They intimidate the twins, compelling them to call out a warning to me or their daddy should we wander too far outside at night. They're the evil ones that my girls are convinced will try to get them in their sleep.

These are all things I expected.

What took me by surprise is the new game that's popped up in the past few weeks or so.

Giving the characters voices, much like they do for Bear and Bean, the girls will channel these malevolent ghouls, usually when they want to be bad.

There have been many dinners as of late where my husband and I have had to "kick the witch and monster back to the moon" so the girls could eat their meals.

"Mommy, the witch doesn't want me to eat my dinner," they'll say. Then they'll break into a gravelly voice. "No! Dulce will not eat her dinner. I am the witch, and I say no."

"Go away, witch," is the standard reply. "You have no power here."

And then we can continue our meal.

Sometimes, the girls will ask me if I love the witch, or if I'll hug her,. I usually say, "Well, if the witch would be good, I would think about it."

When I tell them I love them out of the blue, they'll say "I love you, too." But over the past few weeks, they've then paused, thought about it and asked, "Do you love the witch, too?" I'll usually say no. I don't know if that's the right answer.

What if they are looking for validation that I'll love them when they're good and when they're bad? But, then again, what if they don't want me to love the thing that torments them and causes them fear?

I'll give them a hug. "But you won't hug the witch, are you?"

"No, I won't hug the witch."

With imaginary friends like these, who needs enemies?

___
If you like this blog, please vote for it here at Babble's Top 100 Blogs list. It would mean the world to me.


Wednesday, April 25, 2012

Babies' First Haircut

Yes, at three and a half, the girls finally had their first haircut. Why?

Because their beautiful hair started looking like this:

They were model haircuttees! They stayed as still as you can imagine is possible for their age, and waited their turns. They weren't scared (thanks Dora's Haircut). They were really excited to show off for their dad, too!

Here's how it went for them. First, the spray down.

Then, cute clips!

Get that long stuff on top!
And now the back looks like this:
And the front?



Tuesday, April 24, 2012

Why Choose a Pen Name?

I hear this a lot:

"You're telling everyone under the sun that you're getting published. You've used your own pictures and linked to your real blog. Why are you bothering with a fake name when you tie everything back to your real life, name included?"

Well, first, I'm proud of myself. As me. I want people to know that I accomplished something.

Second, it's not like I'm F. Scott Fitzgerald. If this book is going to sell, I'm going to need the strength of my friends, family and online network. I'm not breaking new ground. I'm just telling a good story that will never be read if no one hears about it. I need people to know who I am. I need the support.

So, why choose a pseudonym?

 Read more:



 

Monday, April 23, 2012

Recipe Monday - Lemon Cream Cheese Frosting

I halved this recipe. It's an amazing mix of tastes that goes great on a light lemon cupcake.



2 (8) ounce package cream cheese softened
1 stick butter softened
2 lbs. confectioners’ sugar
2 teaspoons vanilla extract
juice of one lemon


Using a mixer, blend the butter and cream cheese together until well combined. Gradually add in the confectioners’ sugar until fully incorporated. Finally mix in vanilla and lemon juice.



Sunday, April 22, 2012

Moment of the Week - 89: Rain, Rain, Go Away!

New raincoats make rainy days more fun than sunny ones! I'm just super excited that I got some good shots for once.


 If you like this blog, please vote for it here at Babble's Top 100 Blogs list. It would mean the world to me. 

Saturday, April 21, 2012

Toddler Tricks - 89: Be Specific

I know, I know, last week I said be vague, but I was talking about different things. When you are promising something, be vague so that they're happy, but they don't have any specific image to attach to. Be vague when you're talking about you. Be specific when you are talking about them.

Problem:

Your kid is misbehaving. Whether it's whining about the same thing over and over again in the space of five minutes, throwing a raucous tantrum, making a huge mess, or trying to start a fight with a sibling or any of the other millions of ways a kid can misbehave, they're doing something they know they shouldn't be. You've asked them to be good. You've told them if they don't behave, x, y and z will be taken away or they'll go to their room. They don't care.

Solution:

Be specific. I often fall into the trap of saying to my twins, "listen, I just need you to be good for five more minutes."

But what does be good mean? What does behave mean? It's too broad. The girls can't grasp the concept in real time. Sure, theoretically they know what to be good in the general sense means. But the general sense has no bearing on their specific desires right at the moment. You may as well not have said anything at all because they won't even hear you ask them to 'be good.' It's too vague. They can't picture it.

Instead, I have to remind myself to explain to them what being good in that moment means to me.

"I need you to be quiet while I'm on the phone."
"I need you not to pull your sister's hair."
"I need you to be patient. Don't ask me that again for five minutes."

(Now, they don't know what five minutes is, but they usually make an educated guess. They come pretty close.)

With specific commands to attach to, the girls have a much easier time behaving in the way I need them to at any given time. It also forces me to acknowledge what I need from them. Because oftentimes, when I say be good, I don't know what I mean any more than they do. Good is too vague.

___
If you like this blog, please vote for it here at Babble's Top 100 Blogs list. It would mean the world to me. 




Friday, April 20, 2012

Tatiana March Author Interview (The Layton Prophecy)

Like I said on Tuesday, The Layton Prophecy is free starting today! You should definitely go check it out. I would pay full price for this book, no joke. If you want to see the blurb and an excerpt, click here.

If you want to buy it (get it for free on Amazon) right now, click here.

And luckily for me, the author has taken time out of her busy schedule to answer some of my questions about the book, and about herself.

I give you, Tatiana March.

READ MORE:



Thursday, April 19, 2012

Favorite Characters

We watch a variety of shows here at various times, depending on when I'm working that day. We switch it up because I can only handle so much of any one kids' show. They're fairly irritating, I would say. Of course, so are most adult shows.

I work in the living room, so I see all these shows, and I've ended up with a couple of favorite characters.

1) Gerald on Sid the Science Kid. I love him. He's vibrant and full of energy and shows how kids can be just this side of good even if they're acting hyper. He's got funny ideas, and he's confident in himself. I find him to be a good role model for my kids, even if he is a little scary looking.


2) Swiper. He's, quite simply, the least annoying character on Dora. His "oh, man!" is adorable, and it's proved in the Christmas special that he has a good heart.


3) Ernie. He's been my favorite Sesame St. character since I was a kid. For many of the same reasons I love Gerald, in fact. He's lively, optimistic, fun, and funny. He's inquisitive. Even if he's annoying Bert or bothering his neighbors, he's trying to make life better for them. Plus, he has a band of counting sheep. Does it get cooler? I still remember the mummy skit. It still scares the heck out of me. Ernie is where it's at.


4) Duck. All the same reasoning. Apparently, I love silly, fun-loving, slightly annoying characters with charisma and a good heart. What can I say.



5) Eeyore. The one exception to my pattern. Something about his glum, pessimistic demeanor is so endearing to me. Yes, he sees the worst in everything, but he brightens up when his friends come through for him, which is almost every episode. Plus, he never takes his feelings out on other people, and he's always willing to see the other side. It just takes a little convincing.

Honorable mentions go to Kermit the Frog, the Moonbear, the Spider Monkeys, and Curious George (tied with The Man in the Yellow Hat).

Who are your favorites?

___
If you like this blog, please vote for it here at Babble's Top 100 Blogs list. It would mean the world to me. 






Wednesday, April 18, 2012

Paid Link Foolishness

After you've had a blog for a while, people start to find you. And they leave comments. Awesome comments like:

"This book is a godsend to women everywhere. Sometimes, getting a liposuction Orange County for health reasons is a good idea, though."

"I thought dental x-ray are bad for kids, but thanks for sharing anyway. Now that I have the idea, I'll bring my son to the nearest cosmetic dentist Sydney clinic to see how healthy his teeth are."

Because a book about eating well works well with a link for liposuction, and kids obviously need cosmetic dental work. What?

If you've got a minute and would like a laugh, check out the comments on What I Learned at the Pediatric Dentist.

Spammers are eating that post up.

Now, I don't take them down because I don't particularly care. I've seen the employers that contract this kind of work out for pennies. If someone wants to make ten cents by putting a useless link in the comment section of my blog, who am I to withhold that dime from them? (Assuming the link has to stay up for them to be paid. I don't know anything about this.)

It's not like anyone is going to click on them, or that they take away from any of the content (if you can call stories about my kids and the occasional rant at a news article content) here.

I'll leave you with one of my particular favorites.

"She's been through a messy room but it never fails her to be happy. This pictures should be printed and framed on the wall.
digital cameras"

It almost makes sense. Almost.

___
If you like this blog, please vote for it here at Babble's Top 100 Blogs list. It would mean the world to me. 


Tuesday, April 17, 2012

The Layton Prophecy: Review

I have to talk about the best book I've read in...well, probably since high school. I don't know how many of you have heard of author Tatiana March, but she's a prolific writer with slews of romances under her belt. They're all pretty darn good.

But the Layton Prophecy. The Layton Prophecy is amazing. It's a mystery wrapped in a romance tied up in suspense and intrigue. You've got your love, your loss, your betrayal, your triangles and foibles. It's a fast-paced page-turner with so many levels and mysteries, you'll be compelled to keep on reading.


Here's the blurb:


An ancient curse. A derelict mansion. Rumors of a hidden treasure.

When a lawyer contacts Alexandria Holt to reveal a family secret, she discovers she may one day inherit the crumbling Layton Manor.

Miles Kendrick, a visiting American academic, claims to be a relation. He convinces Alexandria that the Layton Prophecy threatens her life. Together they set out the break the ancient curse, and uncover a trail of past betrayals over a fortune in gold and diamonds.

Alexandria begins to suspect that instead of protecting her, Miles is planning to kill her so he can inherit Layton Manor.

She offers him her heart. Will he take her life?



Read the rest of the review, including an excerpt here at Patch of Sky.



Monday, April 16, 2012

Recipe Monday - Sweet and Sour Meatballs

Sweet and sour meatballs like you've (probably) never had them before. It's the easiest meal in the world, courtesy of my friend, Hep.





Frozen meatballs
Can of cranberry sauce
Two cans (10 oz) of mandarin orange slices
One bag of sauerkraut
Cheddar cheese

Put frozen meatballs in the crock pot.
 Mix together cranberry sauce, orange slices and kraut (drained)
Pour it on top of the meatballs.



Cook on low for six to eight hours.
Put on hoagie rolls and cover with cheddar cheese.

Delicious meal that's so quick to prep! (No claims about being healthy, though).



Saturday, April 14, 2012

Toddler Tricks - 88: Stop Talking

Problem: You're talking again. And again and again and again. It's not your fault. You've been programmed. You know that why you answer one question, another is coming, and then another, and another after that. You've done this dance so many times that you can even anticipate the odd tangents your child's questions will take. So you just cut them off at the pass. However, the more you talk, the more the kids have as fodder to take issue with. The more you talk, the more likely you are to incur the illogical toddler wrath of doom. And the more you talk, the less likely it is that you'll know which one of your ridiculous statements set them off.

As an example, yesterday, Natalina asked me if we were going outside.

"No, we can't go outside because you're still sick, and  it's kind of smoky out there, from the wildfires in North Florida, not here, so we don't have to worry about fire, but smoke travels a long, long way, and smoke can really hurt your throat and your throat is already sore from the sickness, plus your not feeling well and running around out there will probably really tire you out when you need to recover. Also, it might rain, and if it does that, you'll be wet and miserable, and we can't use our raincoats and rain boots because it's cold out there today, so it's not like in the summer time when we can jump in puddles."

First of all, I don't like talking for ten minutes. Secondly, she didn't ask me any of that, I just am so used to her doing so that I launched into it without giving her the chance. Third, why the heck am I talking about puddles by the end? Fourth, she only asked me if we could go outside again right after a finished talking. Fifth, I was actually quite lucky she didn't pick one of those fragments to tantrum about. I certainly gave her enough to work with.

Solution: Shut up.

No, seriously, your tangential answers may have sufficed in the beginning, but now they're not doing you any favors. Let your kid ask the next question. Maybe she will, or maybe she'll surprise you and accept the first answer. But not only are you talking up a storm of ridiculousness all by your lonesome, you're also stopping your child's creative process. The asking of follow-up questions, as annoying as the 80th one is, shows critical thinking on your child's part. If you circumvent that, they don't get a chance to process your answer and think through their own alternatives. Reaching out and connecting thoughts is important at this age, as is learning how to bargain and think their way out of tough situations. Don't hamper it. It's better to be quieter than to talk for 30 minutes straight.



Friday, April 13, 2012

Picking a Good Tagline

So, I don't have a parenting post for you today because I spent the day readying the author blog I'm going to be using for that part of my life when I get published in May.

Please, go over and take a look at Patch of Sky! Let me know if you like it!

The novel will be out in May, and hopefully I'll be able to write a few more of them. I'll be posting there occasionally as I make my way through the new world of branding and marketing yourself as someone other than a mother.



Thursday, April 12, 2012

The Best Thing About Kids

The best thing about kids is that they love you. Simple as that. They're programmed to love you. All you have to do is show up. Insta-love. This makes parents some of the luckiest people on Earth.

With adults, you have to earn their trust, their love. You mess up, you treat them less than well, and they can take it away. Adult love is an eternal compromise, a push and pull and ignore this, don't squabble about that. Adult love is respecting boundaries, actually, it's respect, period. It's rarely, if ever, unconditional.

A child's love, if not completely unconditional, is as close as we will ever get. You can mess up. Yesterday, I accidentally clipped Dulce's lip while trying to give her some medicine. She was very, very upset. That made me upset. I was trying to help her. Couldn't she see that? Of course not. She's three and I hurt her. But when she saw how upset I was, she came over and gave me a hug and patted my back. Because she loves me. Basically unconditionally. When I falter, on the rare occasions when I'm sad, it kills my kids. They don't know what to do with themselves, and they do everything in their tiny power to make it right.

This is not a goodwill to be used generously. Take care with it. As they grow and learn the ways of the world, they will be more sparing with their love. Not to you, hopefully, but in general. And if you sap them of their optimism, if you lean on them for support because they will unquestioningly give it, you will use them up. You will teach them first hand to guard their hearts against manipulation and those who would sap them of their happiness. These are things I hope to protect them from, not encourage.

The best thing about kids is their ability to love and be loved in return with no fine print, baggage, ifs, ands, or buts. They just show up. You just show up. There is love.

It's up to us not to mess that up. I mean, if we lose them, who will help us with the laundry?



___
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Wednesday, April 11, 2012

Holiday Hellions

Easter was a hard, hard day.

My kids were basically...well, they were bad. In fact, they haven't been so bad since Christmas. And before that, since Halloween. Which brings me to the question: What is it about holidays? They're supposed to be special and magical and happy and stuff.

Right?


Right, Clark.

So why do my kids seem determined to wring every last ounce of goodwill and holiday cheer out of me before 9 a.m.? I cannot understand it. If ever I felt like a mommy-martyr, holidays would be the time.

One friend of mine has an excellent theory:

"All children are jerks during holidays, important events, and moments of pure brilliance on the part of their parents. There is a secret society of children that gathers together while we are drinking our wine in the evenings after they're in bed. The children all gather in the astral plane and plan ways to torment their parents on days that we like to tell ourselves are 'all about family (ie: the children).' All memory of this secret society is removed from our brains the moment we produce our own offspring. Tru fax."

I can't think of a better explanation, myself. Of course, another friend tells me what I know I am guilty of.

"It's because a) their routines are all jacked up for holidays. Not just sleep and meals, but New! Stuff! and Sugar! and Being Able to Get Away With Shit Because Mom and Dad are Busy!, and b) we have super high expectations for them and of them - and when they aren't The Happiest Children on Earth, we feel like we failed."

Adding to that, I give them unrealistic expectations of me. The girls were talking about Easter literally two months ago. When will it be Easter? Is it Easter Day yet, mommy? Tomorrow? How about today?

The anticipation of the event soon outstrips anything I could have planned in the realm of possibility, so that when we weren't hunting eggs all day, tantrums started.

This is Easter. We require nonstop egg hunting.

The same was true for Christmas and for Halloween. They got so totally absorbed in looking forward to the holidays that they couldn't enjoy them.

I'd love to say that this is going to stop, but it will have to wait until next holiday because right before I realized how I was feeding into this, I ended the day by telling them when Independence Day was. So now they're asking for that. I've done it to myself. And, boy, do I start early. I forget that they have memories that stretch on forever, and a quick fix to halt the bed time tantrum when they know magical fun Easter is about to end (and they really didn't have magical fun, but they didn't care...it was the heralded, the anticipated, EASTER), the throwaway sentence about the next holiday to look forward to, is what's setting this unwieldy ball of angst into motion.

I'll know better, next time.

___
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