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Monday, March 31, 2014

Recipe Monday - Onion Mushroom Pork Chops

These chops are absolutely delicious. Make sure you saute the onions and mushrooms long enough so that they have their full flavor.


1 tablespoon vegetable oil
4 (4 ounce) pork loin chops, 1/2 inch thick
3 teaspoons seasoning salt
2 teaspoons ground black pepper
1 onion, cut into strips
8 oz of mushrooms, sliced
1 cup water


Rub chops with 2 teaspoons seasoning salt and 1 teaspoon pepper, or to taste.
In a skillet, heat oil over medium heat. Brown pork chops on each side. Add the onions and water to the pan. Cover, reduce heat, and simmer for 20 minutes.
Turn chops over, and add remaining salt and pepper. Cover, and cook until water evaporates and onions turn light to medium brown. Remove chops from pan, and serve with onions on top.


Saturday, March 29, 2014

Kindergarten Kids - Storytime


It's bedtime and instead of reading a princess book the kids have already heard a million times before, you start to mix it up. You get all JK Rowlings. You make up a story, and not only that, but you make it a serial story, so that you tell another part each night.

But you're not JK Rowlings. So whyyyy did you do this to yourself?

If you're already knee-deep in it (like me), here are some suggestions to help you out of the never-ending story hole.


1) Do not, under any circumstances, make the main characters your kids.

It seems like a great idea at the time. In fact, your kids may even request it. And why not allow them to even further relate to the crappy characters you're making up on the fly? Two reasons: 1) they shouldn't need it. They'll be able to relate to the characters whether they share physical features and names or not. 2) If you make them your kids, and then you give them, say, magical floating powers when they wanted, oh, let's just use this random example, hugging to make people feel better you've got a tantrum or a sulk on your hands, and it's like, yo, who is even telling this story, and how are you upset about floating powers anyway, they are obviously awesome.

2) Avoid anything that could be scary, even a little scary.

This is hard because any sort of conflict or suspense scene or anything at all where motives could be questioned, where good guys may not even always be good, all these things can lead to the dreaded, "mama, I'm too scared to go to sleep." So be prepared for your story to be nothing but parties and singing and specialness. They will really suck, but I'm saying my kids couldn't even handle being thrown in a dark room for two seconds before the purple fairy rescued them with a vine. That was too scary for them. Great. Surprise parties and pretty dresses it is. (Just kidding, though. Tomorrow, I'm venturing into ogre and guard dog territory as the girls climb a mountain to get the gold coins to pay the person keeping the princess fairy locked up. I DON'T CARE ANYMORE. AFTER A WEEK OF FRILLY NONSENSE, I AM TELLING THE STORY.

Sweet dreams, kids.


Thursday, March 27, 2014

Disney Cage Match: Frozen vs. Tangled vs. Brave

Yesterday, on Facebook, I found out just how serious we all are about our modern Disney movies. While the older cartoons get ALL of the free passes, our developing society now requires more social conscience in our films, and we are absolutely right to demand it. In that vein, Disney has come out with several kickass princesses in the past few years. Could they do even better? Sure! Is it nice to take Merida, though, and compare her to Cinderella to pat ourselves on the back about how far we've come? Yes, let's do it. No problems detected.

That said, when you get into the nitty-gritty of which modern movie we all like the best, things can get...ugly. Like really ugly. I mean, sometimes you prefer Tangled and then someone comes along and calls you an abusive parent or says you hate Disney. (JUST KIDDING, I KNOW YOU DIDN'T MEAN IT LIKE THAT.) But still, tempers really, really flare.

Do Not Mess With The Modern Favorites.

So, let's put these films to the test, shall we? Let's take Frozen, Brave and Tangled, and gauge them component by component to get at the real winner in all this. Preferences are fine and all, but don't we really need to examine which of the three feminist princesses is THE BEST ONE. It's not like we can all get along, right?

The Main Character:


Anna and Elsa: Anna is really the main character, but you could argue that Elsa makes the storyline. Or is Elsa really the main character and Anna is just filler learning a few side lessons while Elsa figures herself out behind closed doors? Either way, they need each other and we need them both. They do it alone, without anyone else.


Merida has had enough of your bullshit. She's headstrong, free-spirited and, well, brave. She makes some pretty serious, I'm-a-spoiled-princess mistakes (like feeding her poor mom that damn cake), but it's not like her mom is even trying to understand how awesome she is, so forgiven.


Rapunzel is totally rad. She's utterly optimistic at every turn. She sees the best in absolutely everything. Her friendly and naive demeanor don't really make her nearly as kickass as the other three heroines, but she's willing to give anything a try, and she goes for anything she wants.


Okay, okay, REMEMBER these are all my opinions. You make your own winners. I know most of you will pick Anna/Elsa. It's okay. Keep going through. Maybe you'll even agree with me once or twice, who knows!

Anyway, I chose Rapunzel because she's scared but happy, does what she wants but thinks of other people, and saves the prince like the badass she is. She does all these things without doing anything too petulant.

The Mom:


She never even speaks. Come on, Disney. If I were that mom (and I know, I know, I'm not), I probably would have been like, yo, king, dude. Could we go back to the trolls and get some more info on this whole powers thing? I'm not feeling locking my kid up for a decade.


She's stubborn, she doesn't listen to what her daughter needs, she projects her problems onto her daughter, she's a traditionalist because she was forced to be so and therefore others should be, too, she's unbending, can't talk to her kid, and frequently gets angry in ways that are not productive.

She's also the raddest motherfucker ever. She learns from her mistakes, and she totally forgives her kid for turning her into a gd bear. Plus, everything she does in that paragraph up there she does out of a deep love. It's just a bit misguided, that's all.


I really find it hard to believe that they searched all over the kingdom and never thought to check that tower, but Flynn Rider just ran from a horse and climbed it, nbd.


The Dad:


There is grave disagreement here, and many people feel I'm a cruel-hearted SOB for my opinion, but I think Anna and Elsa's dad is abusive. Full stop. You don't lock your kid up in a room for a decade to "protect her". Sure, do it for a week while you research other things to do, and go in there to constantly reassure her that you're working to help her, but just handing her some thicker gloves every five years, and basically being like, peace out and also never talk to your sister again? Because we love you? Nope.


Is this guy the best ever or what? He's just the best ever. I can't even with his happy, constructive, protective demeanor and his obvious love for his family and his life.


Same as mom. You're just going to light lanterns and hope the princess finds her way home? Okay.


The Bad Guy:


This is a tough one because Hans isn't really the bad guy so much as he's just an ahole. Elsa isn't the bad guy because Disney changed her tune and made her awesome instead. In Frozen, one of the messages is that the bad guy is fear, the bad guy is ourselves, the bad guy is quick decisions driven by emotion bereft of critical thinking.

That's a pretty important bad guy, guys.


Mordu, y'all. Mor-fucking-du. You can't. I can't. I mean. I was pissed when we saw this in theaters, because why didn't anyone tell me about the damn bear fight, omg my toddlers!

Anyway, the awesome thing about Mordu is that he represents what the mother could have become if she gave up on love and family. Instead she fought that off. People need each other, families need each other, and sometimes being right isn't as important as being, well, good. Well done.


I love Mother Gothel. She is the most hilarious abusive pos I've ever laid eyes on. The manipulative games she plays with poor Rapunzel would have made me cry if they weren't so obvious, overdone and meant to make me laugh instead. "Mother Knows Best" is a pretty singable song, tbh, and the narcissistic tones of her badness really underscore the mental damage she is inflicting.


(But, damm, that was a tough choice. These bad guys all rock hard.)

The Lovable Sidekick:


Okay, okay, I'm happy for you, and I'mma let you finish, but Olaf is the best sidekick of all time.

Everything he says is fucking wonderful. He single-handedly saves Frozen for me. What can I say? I'm a total sucker for childlike optimism in the face of all odds. Plus, I really fucking like warm hugs.


Tricky one here. Merida doesn't have a legit sidekick. She rides alone, yo. But her little brothers are damn cute. Other than that cleavage scene, though.


Is there any way to not love a horse with moral fiber of steel and a heart of gold? I think not.


Yeah, why?

The Music:


Okay, so Frozen had some MAMMOTH songs. Do You Want to Build a Snowman can plunge me into a depressive state the likes of which I've never previously known, and Let It Go is a power ballad to end all power ballads. It speaks to deep, entrenched issues within people themselves. Tough stuff. In Summer is a cute sidekick song, and even the prince / Anna song is pretty cute. But they're not well spaced, and they don't really work together as a whole ensemble.


No music because Pixar does what it wants. So there.


I love the songs and the distribution of songs in Tangled. They're not as deep or nearly as powerful as those in Frozen, but they work for the story, they accentuate each character in good form, and they bring the piece together. Flynn even remarks about the damn silliness of everyone breaking out into song all the time, because seriously wth.


I don't like crying the ugly tears down my face, and I love enormous piles of money. Sue me. Yes, I totally know this is the wrong answer. w/e

The Primary Message:


You don't have to shut yourself away just because you are different. Fear is the enemy. You have the power to make a change in your own life


Tradition is not always right, love is not always prescribed, you deserve to make your own way and find your own happiness and you are strong enough to do it.


Follow your dreams because the life you know now may not be at all what you think it is. Don't let anyone else hold you back from what you need in life.


Another contentious one. I realize this may not be a popular choice.

The Conflict:


Girl grows up isolated and in fear of herself, shuts herself off to the world, while the other sister tries to break through. Has to learn to treat herself with the kindness and respect she deserves.


Girl stands up for herself when confronted with having to get married. Has to learn about compromise and love.


Girl grows up isolated in a freaking tower, has to break free of what has been a "normal" life for her thus far and venture out into a new world to pursue her dream.

WINNER: FROZEN (since I gave the last one to Tangled).

The "Prince":


Honestly? He's nice and everything, but just an outline of a character. Meh.


Winning. Don't need no suitor.


I love Flynn Rider, I love everything about him. EVERYTHING. I. Love. Him. He might be one of my favorite Disney characters of all time.


I almost want to give this to Brave, because it is so important for girls to know that they do not need a boy to be happy. ACTUALLY, I change my answer. NEW WINNER: BRAVE

In Tangled, though, our runner up, it is important to note that you can't judge someone by their reputation alone, and that trust is very important in life, when given due reason.

This also isn't to discount Kristoff. Of all the Disney men so far, he GETS consent and politeness and feminism. Rad.

The Weapon:


Ice Powers. Um, that is all need be said.


Fantastic bow and arrow.


Frying pan.


The bow and arrow is something Merida worked hard at her entire life, and more importantly, when it came right down to the fight scene, you saw that even her years of dedication and practice couldn't fell such an evil beast. She needed to come together with her loved ones, and use her wits to conquer.

The Ice Powers and the Frying Pan are both close runners up, though.

Elsa has to learn to use and wield those powers similar to how Merida used the bow, and simply looking at these three, having Ice Powers clearly beats every-freaking-other-thing. But yeah, they're no good if you don't know how to use them.

The frying pan is the opposite of the Ice Powers. Rapunzel has no skills, no powers, has never practiced any form of defense, and yet she uses what is on hand to best her opponent. Not bad.

The Sequence:


Too much emotion at the beginning without enough backstory, too many songs in a row, and after Let It Go there is not much to hold a viewer's interest.


Better than Frozen in terms of pacing, but it lags in some places, and sometimes the sad feels are too close to the other feels to make a clean transition.


 Perfect. Good pacing, good layout. Unfortunately, of the three it is the weakest in content. But we're grading sequence here, so that doesn't matter.


The Most Important Relationship:








Sorry, guys, I'm just feeling the mom-daughter relationship more than I feel the sister-sister. I think it was much better development, better paced, and more involved. It required fewer assumptions and was explicit in its growth throughout the movie.

The Advisor:


What a jerk, amirite? This guy is truly the reason for all the trouble in this whole movie. You've got time to sing a whole stupid song about fixer uppers, but can't give the KING better advice than 'she's dangerous, but fear is your enemy'? No thanks.


Only MILDLY above the troll king in terms of overall douchiness. She's a teenager. Give a girl some direction, eh? At least, though, the Bear Witch tries to help in her way.


He's bland and a bit boring, but aren't all consciences?


By default, though. The other two were just horrific.

So, okay, if we tally these up...

Looks like, by my count, we've got five for Brave, five for Tangled, and three for Frozen.

But if you weigh in the overall message girls in particular should take with them going forward, that gives Frozen a few extra points.


All that work, just to tell you these movies are tied for awesomeness on the point scale.


Tangled for life, yo.


Wednesday, March 26, 2014

Things I Did Wrong Today

I do a lot of things wrong every single day, as a parent and a person. Lest you think my days ever go any different, I thought I'd break this one down for you. AHEM. Things I did wrong today:

1) I made the girls make their own beds. (Like they do every damn day. Not sure why today it made me the meanest mommy, but there you have it.)

2) I wasted my time driving 20 minutes to campus and 20 minutes back for a 20 minute meeting with a professor that gave me no insight as to how to run a focus group. This also cost me $20 for a babysitter. I guess 20 is the magic fail number. (Should have gone with a list of specific questions, for sure.)

3) While I was there, I accidentally reminded him that the assignment for the paper due today wasn't open. (SORRY GRAD CLASS, I TOTALLY DIDN'T MEAN TO DO THAT.)

4) I didn't have any red or orange Tootsie pops when I got home. The scandal.

5) I had to write an entire paper meaning that 1) I couldn't play with the girls as much as they NEEDED RIGHT THIS SECOND and 2) I couldn't let them play the Doge game.

6) I introduced them to the Doge game (technically yesterday's mistake, but damn if I didn't feel it today.)

7) My lap is too small for two five year olds.

8) I made one ice cream cone "wider" than another ice cream cone.

9) I dared to talk to another adult in the presence of the twins.

10) I handed my paper in late. (Also, it's the worst paper I've written this semester. Oh well.)

11) I gave one twin two more pieces of popcorn than the other twin. They know because they meticulously counted each five different times.

12) I forgot to defrost the dinner meat. Again.

Ordinary flowers by day...EMERGENCY DEFROST WEIGHT by night.

13) I bought the sausage that has too much gristle again.

14) I let my kids stay up until 10 p.m. watching Full House.  I did this because:

15) I posted on FB that I preferred Tangled to Frozen. Which resulted in this:


 Because for fuck's sake, DON'T mess with Frozen.



Tuesday, March 25, 2014

Moving on When Gentle Discipline Goes Wrong

When it comes to attachment parenting, I'm usually in the dark. Thankfully, we have Joella on board from Fine and Fair who consistently sheds some light on the topic in a warm and caring way! In case, she tackles the ever-difficult gentle discipline, and goes one step further. What do you do when you've lost your temper and you're an attachment parent?


For most who practice what is known as "Attachment Parenting," gentle discipline is a given. Eschewing spankings, and for some, avoiding all forms of punitive discipline, means drawing from Saint-like stores of patience, calm, and understanding in the face of typical child-like behavior and tantrums.

I am just such a parent, and I have no such stores. Balancing my parenting style with an emotionally draining career and other responsibilities sometimes leaves my wells a little dry. There are excellent articles out there on how to work toward being a more gentle parent, or how to avoid yelling, or providing alternatives to punitive discipline. Unfortunately, sometimes in the heat of the moment, the tips and tricks in those articles escape me, and I find myself yelling, threatening, and otherwise conducting myself in a manner that is not, by any stretch of the imagination, gentle.

I've chosen to seize these missteps as opportunities to model grace in admitting my mistakes and asking for forgiveness. I am human. My children are human. We share a tendency toward imperfection. My children are going to make mistakes in their lives. They are going to lash out at others in anger or frustration. They are going to say and do things they regret to people they love and respect. By responding appropriately to my own mistakes, I set an example for how to appropriately respond to personal mistakes in general.

So, what's an attached parent to do, following a gentle discipline blunder?

1. Take time to collect yourself. In my case, my daughter is old enough that I can tell her that I need to take some time to calm down, and she will often give me that space. That's not always the case when she's in mid-tantrum and my reaction has escalated it, so if it's safe to do so, I will simply leave the room for a few moments to calm down before proceeding. I take that time to practice deep breathing or a mindfulness exercise, and to repeat affirmations to myself: "I am a gentle parent. I respond to my child with sensitivity and respect, even when it is difficult. I model kindness and grace."

2. Apologize. Apologize for your actions, not for your feelings. Uncomfortable emotions (anger, annoyance, frustration, etc.) are normal and natural, and you shouldn't apologize for being upset with your child. Apologize instead for your behavior. By affirming the feelings that led to your behavior, you do not negate the fact that your child's behavior warranted guidance or correction. Focus on your behavior and what you could have done differently to demonstrate that a big part of this whole discipline thing is learning which behaviors are appropriate and which are not. Example: "I'm sorry I yelled at you. I was upset that you hit your brother, but I shouldn't have yelled. I should have talked to you calmly."

3. Ask forgiveness. Following your apology, simply ask for forgiveness. Your child may follow suit and ask for your forgiveness, too. If he doesn't, model that expectation by saying that you forgive him. "Thank you for forgiving me for yelling at you. I forgive you for hitting your brother."

4. Engage your child in avoiding a repeat. If your child is invested in the problem solving and planning process, he is more likely to follow through with your plans for preventing a repeat blunder. Consider what each of you could have done differently in the situation, and plan specific ways to avoid your problem behaviors in the future. Agree to remind each other if you notice each other engaging in the behavior (yelling, hitting, etc.). One of my favorite tried and true ideas came from this post by Creative with Kids. My 4 year old and I sat down together and cut out a stack of hearts from pink construction paper. I explained that the hearts represent our agreement to treat each other with love and respect, even when we are upset. We agreed to give each other a pink heart if we noticed the other starting to lose our temper. It worked like a dream! My child felt empowered to intervene if I started to lose my cool, and her asking me assertively if I needed a pink heart was always enough to remind me to take some deep breaths and proceed calmly.

5. Explore and affirm your child's emotions. Take the time to process the interaction with your child in an age appropriate way. If you don't have time to do this in the moment, do it as soon as possible. She may have been frightened, confused, startled, or all three! Talking about her feelings accomplishes two things. First, it shows that you care for her feelings and that the feelings she experienced are valid. Second, it helps her name her emotions and gives her an opening to explore appropriate ways to express them.

A gentle discipline blunder can be overwhelming and upsetting to everyone involved, but when handled appropriately, it can open the door to improved communication, emotional intelligence, grace, understanding, and forgiveness.


Don't forget to check out Fine and Fair for more natural parenting tips, or take a look at our AP Style for our best instinctive parenting ideas.


Thursday, March 20, 2014

What They Don't Tell You About Anxiety

When "demons" are depicted in scripts or drawings, they tend to follow the same trope. You've got your protagonist, seemingly fine, walking along, and following her, there are these entities. Sometimes these are actually drawn beings to personalize the "demons", sometimes they are simply words trailing the protagonist. Things that sometimes don't reach the ears, but sometimes catch up, and take hold.

This image is incorrect (for me). Anxiety can be far trickier than this. While I understand the benefits of drawing it like this, since it indicates the anxiety is not you but instead something that hinders you,  in reality it's not a physical entity (even an imaginary one.) It's not even a voice. It's not words. God, that it were words. I can beat the shit out of words. I do words. But no. For me, anyway, it's not messages following me around only to jump onto my back from behind a tree at random points.

It is inside of me. It is feelings. It has no drawable, relatable comparison. Which is  interesting because you cannot conquer something like that. Which leads to anxiety about anxiety. Awesome.

It's taken me a very long time to even accept that I have anxiety. Since it doesn't seem to me like a voice or demon following me around, but instead seems like, well, me, I've been very strict my whole life about kicking its ass. About kicking my own ass. When I feel like this, I don't shut down. I run harder. Because I hate weakness, and this is weak.  (Keep in mind, this is before I knew what it was.) To me, it didn't seem like something affecting me, like something paralyzing me. It felt like me doing that to myself. And fuck that, I am stronger than that. I ignore my stupid-ass self, because, no. I just will not give in to this fucking nonsense. So that I never look like this:

...because I just tell myself to shut up. And if you can just tell yourself to shut up and continue to function normally, even though (and the bottom panel is pretty spot on) there is some shit literally vomiting on your head, then you can't have anxiety, right? I mean, look at how much I do in a day? I do so much. There is a reason. If I'm still moving, I won't stop. If I stop, those feelings, that me, myself, those nerves welling up in my chest like a volcano of I-don't-even-know-what-the-fuck-it-is because I'm too afraid to stop and listen to it, well, they'll all get bigger, and harder, and seem important. To me, the only thing to do is to continue to tell yourself these feelings are bullshit and not important.

And that works for a little while. Until you throw up. Until you get migraines so unbearable strong that even you, the girl who stops for nothing, cannot move. Until you lose who you are entirely, and are just surrounded by dark.

So, perhaps, then, not the best solution...

And sometimes, in a twist so unfair it can make you cry, your children inherit this bullshit you've never given any thought to, and never tried to straighten out because you're just so strong, guys. Look. No problem here.

I have a daughter who is pretty anxious. And I'm giving her my coping mechanisms. My shitty-beyond-belief, non-working, coping mechanisms. And I'm angry. And I'm scared. I'm angry at myself for giving this to her, even though I had no control over it. I feel like it is my fault. I'm so angry, it's hard to explain. It's just like one more hugely important way I failed. And this time, I didn't fail me. I failed my child. Just by having a genetic code. How's that one for you? I'm scared because I don't know how to handle it. I want to make it go away, but I don't want to be cruel to my child the way I'm cruel to myself. I don't want to teach her to be cruel to herself, either. And yet, it's already started.

It's already started because I do not know what else to do. These things just fall out of my mouth because it is the way of the world, the way of me, and my kid is only five, and Jesus, what am I going to do?

In this comic, I am the squirrel. She is the bird.

"We don't have time for this. Suck it up for right now, and deal with your wall later."

That's fine when I'm talking to myself. I either take a bulldozer to the damn wall, or push it aside "for later" then never come back to it, until it comes up my esophagus in a fit of physical rage over not being dealt with. No biggie. It is what it is.

But, I mean, just this morning, my daughter was having trouble leaving the house for our walk to school. She'd either imagined or actually seen a spider blocking her path, and couldn't move. She tried to tell me about the spider. My response? "We don't have time for this. There is no spider, and if there is, it's not going to bother us. LET'S GO, ALREADY." And I pushed her along out the door, and she cried for the first part of our walk.

So, way to go, mom. Awesome job. We got to school on time (barely), but at what cost? And how often do I tell her to ignore her anxieties or that her thoughts are not important? Do I realize them all? Probably not. I'm basically ruining my own child every minute of the day.

Do you see those "demons" in the above paragraphs? They're not voices following me around. They are feelings without names, worries without cause. And they're not vocal. I can't hear them as if they are talking to me. They are me. It just is what it is what it is. This is reality, not something from which you could run, You can't detach it, or stop it. Because if you stopped it, you would stop life. This is life.

Another wonderful part of this is that I am on high alert all the time. You know how when something really intense is happening and your fight-or-flight kicks in? That's me from the second I wake up to the second I fall asleep. This made me a great fit for the newsroom. Do you have any idea how nervous news producers are? I looked like a beacon of calm. Or at the very least, I looked normal. And since there was ostensibly a reason for this stress (you're live in five minutes, your show is 2.5 minutes over, half your video isn't cut and your sat shot isn't up yet). In the newsroom, you don't have to explain why you're so intense. And even in real life, people seem to understand that deadline work requires a certain ethic and they respect your quirks due to that. In essence, the way you are is validated. Not so much as a stay at home mom. Without the reason to be nervous, you lose your base. It becomes something you need to think about because it doesn't fit your lifestyle.

And being constantly on high alert frays your nerves and patience. My reactions are too strong for real life. So that when I interact with my children, I come on too strong. And the anxious one? She is so sensitive and perceptive, she can pick up on cues I don't even know I'm giving off. It's a horrid cycle.

I combat this by controlling everything I do, packing everything in, being as efficient as possible. I keep thinking maybe if I could succeed at something, anything, maybe then I could calm down, get off my own back. But, unfortunately, I'm learning that's not how this works.

Very dishearteningly, I came across this:

If that's true, I'm in a lot of trouble. Controlling the world had been one of my main coping mechanisms.

One final thing, thinking about this, trying to fix it, makes it worse (hopefully in the short term?!). I'm only allowing this analysis because of my child. I want better for her.


Wednesday, March 19, 2014

Maria Kang Redux

Guys, I'm so sick of us. Aren't you sick of us? Here we write, day in and day out. Someone writes one thing, another person disagrees with it and writes his or her response, then another, then another ad nauseum.

And if any of us are ever good enough, sometimes we'll get recognized for our polemics, but does it ever do anything. Does it ever help anyone other than our own egos? And I am a huge offender, don't get me wrong. I will respond the shit out of each and every opinionated blog post and movement I come across. Because it's what I do. I see something, it makes me angry, and I have a platform on which I can yell about it. So I do and I will continue to do so. And I also get that awareness is important. I'm a huge proponent of using language precisely and correctly and fighting the little fights as hard as we fight the big ones, for human rights in all forms. In fact, right now, I have a list of about twenty things that happened recently that I have to write up, because God forbid the internet not have my opinion on it.

But gosh, isn't it so tiring, though?

Let's run through the process:
Write a thing.
Write lots more things.
People share some of those things.
Some of the things that were shared get picked up on aggregates.
People write responses to those things picked up.
People write responses to those responses.

Every single point of view is thoroughly explored with lots of feels and capital letters, and very little research. Journalism is dead. It's all feelingism now, and while I love that because it means I don't even have to do much work, I can just vomit emotion all over the page, I also hate it because it's boring, it brings nothing new to the table, it convinces no one, and honestly, it's not even any good.

Take Maria Kang. My favorite.

It was back in the early fall of 2013 that she went viral. And I wrote at the time a pretty popular response to her patent nonsense. There were response pictures, blogs, people defending themselves, people defending Maria, you name it. She got on the news, and on the talk shows, and kicked off facebook and the whole bit. Because even legitimate news organizations no longer understand what news is. It's all about clicks. And she gets clicks, so rock on.

Only now it's March of 2014. And being intelligent, she's done what any person would have done with the attention, and she's marketed. Well, no kidding. How is this news? If I were her, I would be doing the exact same thing. So, okay, she's pretty much a jerk who refuses to see the harmful implications of "What's your Excuse?" Do we really need to hash through all that again? We REALLY need to go over the link between psychological wellbeing and health again? We need to yell at her some more, or defend her some more?

Worst of all, we need people like this lady using the whole thing to piggyback to online mom bullying line, again?

I mean, honestly, since MK's decided to insert herself into the news, I've seen the countless new articles. I've read about her new stuff. It's not new. I'd write a response, but all I have to do is link to my old one. There is nothing new here.

And the only person who stands to make a buck or a name off Maria Kang is Maria Kang. So can everyone just stop trying? I am so bored with it.

You know what I'm not bored with? Action. We need to take all this pent-up angst we use to poop on each other with, and do something with it.

In this particular case, I've turned We Don't Need an Excuse into my thesis. I'm doing research right now to help concretely tie the psychological effects of this campaign to health negatives. Because as I've said before, it isn't about Maria. It is about the messages we send to people. And about the types of people who subscribe to those messages and what it does to them.

I'm not saying we all need to be out on the ground doing volunteer work or whatever. Blogging is great, it's fine, it's good. Let's go at it. You all know I do. I'm just saying, can we get some new material, though? We already had this fight, and I haven't heard one new thing about it. Let's figure out where we go from here, not stomp all over where we've already been.


Tuesday, March 18, 2014

Singled Out, The Parenting Edition

Dating when you're a parent can be really difficult. Not only do you have to like the other person, so do your kids. And they have to like your kids, too. It becomes very muddy, very fast, so what do you do? (And that's even if you have time or luck to meet anyone).

Accidentally Mommy has some advice:

Back in 2010, I wrote a post on Accidentally Mommy, lamenting my struggles as a single mom trying to date. It was an audience participation post, and the couple of responses I received were encouraging the very options I was shying away from: Old flames and internet dating, both of which I had unsuccessfully tried.

Still though, as time went by, I found that my options otherwise truly were limited. So, back to OKCupid and some old boyfriends I went.

The old boyfriends thing, never again. NEVER AGAIN WITH THE OLD BOYFRIENDS TIMES. They are not boyfriends any longer for good reason. Unfortunately, it took a year of our lives and three very broken hearts to realize that. But realize it I did, and we’re all far better off, having had the time since he’s left us bring us the clear understanding that we deserve better.

This post is less about the where’s of dating as a single parent, though. Sure, where plays a part. I’ve done my time on OKCupid, and met some truly awesome people there. None of them have been meet-the-kids types, though. They’re the scratch my back types, if you understand what I mean.

Ironically, the one person I’ve met that is the meet the kids type is someone I…wait for it…work with.

Yep. Dipping my pen in the company ink, folks.

Now, he and I have an understanding right now that we’re not  looking for a relationship, since we both have some extenuating circumstances that we both need to sort out, but for all intents and purposes, we certainly treat our burgeoning friendship like a burgeoning relationship, right down to the awkward text conversations at 2am, and the ebb and flow of attention that comes with not quite knowing what’s going on with the other person’s wants and needs when it comes to the reciprocity of interpersonal interactions.

This man has potential for me, though, which is perhaps why I treat him a bit differently. And I’ll let you in on a secret. I’ve broken my cardinal rule. I let him meet the kids.


Let that one sink in for a moment.

All the dating sites for all the single parents in all the world scream from the minarets that you should never, ever, ever introduce your children to a potential love interest, whether you’re in that zone or in the friend zone. You don’t get them attached. You don’t get them involved.

Well, I did the unthinkable.

I needed to.

It’s damn hard, you see, to gauge someone’s worth to you, their place in your world, when you can’t see how they’re going to interact and treat the most vulnerable and fragile pieces of your life. I needed to know from the start how he, as a friend, would treat them, so that I could gauge how he, should he ever become more than a friend, would consider them from that point on. It went smashingly well.

He took Bug’s hand without flinching, and paid him all the attention Bug asked for. He engaged Dancing Queen in conversation and made her laugh without trying, piquing her interest with obscure tidbits of history. He made their afternoon even more fun and interesting by pointing out things they otherwise would have missed or just not paid attention to. And when the day was over, he made sure not just to say goodbye to me, but to them, as well. He included them.

Since then, he and I have continued to build our friendship.

Sure, to some of you, this may not be dating. I beg to differ. I am learning, slowly, that this is exactly what dating is. My preconceived notion was that dating involved sex on the first or second date, and getting to know each other from there. This is teaching me that I’ve had it backwards all along. This is teaching me patience, this is teaching me how to know someone. This is teaching me that even if we’re not meant to work out as more, even though we’ve said for now we’re not, that the ride to finding that out is a beautiful, exciting thing.

We’ve had our bumps – times when I can’t gauge what he’s thinking, and I’m too awkward and afraid to ask, because for all I know it could be nothing more than he’s just tired from a long day. Or days where I’m afraid to ask, because I feel like pushing the matter may cross our mutual “not going there right now and not maybe ever” line.

But my gut? My gut says we’re getting there, and that this is how we do it. So maybe use this as your own template, single mom or dad. Find someone. Make them your friend. And then maybe, just maybe, make them more.


Monday, March 17, 2014

Recipe Monday - Basil Scallop Pasta

This was so delicious. Totally worth your time. My kids ate it three times without complaint!

1 (16 ounce) package farfalle (bow tie) pasta
24 scallops, rinsed and drained
3/4 cup olive oil
1/4 cup lemon juice
1 1/2 teaspoons dried minced garlic
1 teaspoon salt
1/2 teaspoon ground black pepper
2 tablespoons dried basil
9 tablespoons whipped butter

Bring a large pot of water to a boil. Cook pasta in boiling water for 8 to 10 minutes, or until al dente. Drain, rinse, and transfer to a large serving bowl.

Meanwhile, place scallops in a large bowl. In a small bowl, mix together 1/4 cup olive oil, lemon juice, 1 teaspoon garlic, 1/2 teaspoon salt, and the black pepper. Pour mixture over scallops. Arrange scallops in a single layer in a large baking dish or plate. Sprinkle 1 tablespoon dried basil over scallops so that only one side is sparsely coated with basil.

Heat a large skillet over medium-high, and melt one tablespoon of butter in the pan. Place 12 scallops basil-side down, and cook for about 3 to 4 minutes until dark golden brown. Turn scallops, and cook the other side. Cook the remaining 12 scallops the same way.

In a small saucepan, melt remaining butter with 1/2 cup olive oil, 1 tablespoon basil, 1/2 teaspoon garlic, and 1/2 teaspoon salt.

Toss pasta with butter and olive oil mixture. Divide pasta onto plates, and top with scallops.


Sunday, March 16, 2014

Moment of the Week - Princess Party

Yesterday was a full-on real person day for me. First we went to a princess party, then I went straight to a baby shower, then straight to a birthday dinner for my friend. Here's the girls at their princess party, though.

Nails painted (which they're not allowed at home, so they were THRILLED).


All done and lovely!

After face painting.

Like looking in a mirror, sometimes.

Me and my princesses.


Thursday, March 13, 2014

Home Schooling Co-op Confusion - Guest Post

Today, I'm especially lucky to have Tracey Birch from Inside the Mommyvan explaining what co-ops mean to home schoolers...and what they don't. Thank you, Tracey!


If you spend much time around homeschoolers, you'll probably hear them talk about their "co-op" days. I was recently asked for an explanation of these mysterious organizations by someone who'd heard they they were "like school, but without qualified teachers."

I suppose that description may fit some co-ops, but I'm fortunate to live in an area where that couldn't be farther from the truth, at any of the half-dozen co-ops in my general vicinity (and those are just the ones I've heard of).

First off, what is a homeschool co-op? Details vary, but in general it's when a group of homeschoolers get together--usually once a week--for a day of more-or-less classes. These are often, but not always, taught by the co-op parents, and the subject matter can range from belly dancing to advanced biology. There is usually a fee for classes, which generally goes to the individual teachers to pay for their time and supplies. Some large co-ops have a paid administrative staff, but most are truly co-operative, relying on parent volunteers for everything from scheduling classes to cleaning up the lunch room. The best organizations double as a support and social group for both parents and students. Some have the interpersonal drama you might expect from any organized group of individuals, but no more than you'd find in a PTA or neighborhood organization.

As for the teachers' qualifications, there are a few things to keep in mind. One, many former professional teachers homeschool their own kids; two, co-ops often attract outside (non-homeschooling) teachers and experts; and three, truly unqualified teachers are easy to avoid. As word gets around, and it does, about their lack of teaching skills or subject-matter knowledge, they're not invited back to the co-op or people just don't enroll in their classes. How many traditional-school parents have (or wish they had) that option? The reality is that public school teachers are often placed in classrooms far outside their areas of expertise (take a look at your state's minimum requirements for a teaching certificate sometime), and much of their class time is spent on high-stakes standardized test preparation. Worst-case at co-op: we've spent an hour a week for one semester in a worthless class. At a traditional school, that class with the "bad" teacher may be the student's entire day, every day (for lower grades) or their only opportunity to take an advanced class in the upper grades.

Some co-ops add on many of the extra-curriculars found at traditional schools: field trips, yearbooks, science fairs, student council, art shows, even prom and graduation ceremonies. Others focus on rigorous academic subjects, with highly qualified teachers and loads of homework. Still others are relaxed, with an eclectic mix of classes where age or grade levels are mere suggestions and parents, often with babes-in-arms, can be found sitting in on class sessions.

Whichever type you choose, co-ops can be a valuable addition to a homeschooler's toolbox for academics, extra-curriculars, and social time. My kids are currently taking a science & nature class from a long-time professional educator (who brings in all sorts of critters for the kids to see and touch) and a class on playing games (fall semester focused on old-school games and good sportsmanship, this spring is games from around the world complete with geography and culture lessons). In the past they have taken arts & crafts classes (with themes from a storybook reading), Lego construction (including simple machines), ballet, tap, and hip-hop dance, exploring water (from physical/chemical properties, art, and nature perspectives), local plants & wildlife (great day-long field trip that semester), and Waldorf-inspired art.

We also spend hours on the playground and at the park each week, just hanging out and playing with friends. This may be the best part of our co-op experience, as kids of all ages play together and look out for each other; cliques and bullying are practically non-existent.

So yes, it is sort of like school... but the difference isn't in the teachers, it's in the parents and students.


Wednesday, March 12, 2014

Purim: How Does It Work? - Contributor Post

Today, Kate Allen from Life, Love, Liturgy talks about the history of a really cool, and slightly unknown by some of the masses, holiday.

If any religious people can put on a daringly joyous and raucous holiday, Jewish people can. Purim, celebrated on the 14th day of the Jewish month of Adar, will be celebrated this year starting at sunset on March 15 (and continuing till sunset on March 16).

Purim is a holiday based on the book of Esther, which is a ten-chapter tale about Esther and her cousin Mordecai, who are Jews, along with the Persian king and his advisor. The king's advisor, Haman, persuades the king, Ahasuerus, to eliminate all of the Jews, mainly out of anger and jealousy he bears toward Mordecai. Mordecai persuades Esther, who has become the most favored woman in Ahasuerus' harem and thus the Persian queen, to go to the king and ask him not to fulfill Haman's request. After fasting for three days, Esther goes to the king, thus risking her life, because no one is supposed to approach the king without a summons. The king continues to look on Esther favorably despite her unexpected appearance before him, and afterward Esther reveals her Jewish identity, asking him to spare her people. In the end, Haman is hanged on the gallows he had built for the leaders of the Jews, and Purim is declared a holiday by Esther herself.

To celebrate Purim, Jewish folks prepare for Purim by fasting. Then they get together to read the Megillah (i.e. the book of Esther). This is no drab reading of scripture, however. Folks show up for Purim in bright costumes, armed with groggers to boo and blot out the name of Haman. The celebration of Purim is a lively ritual enactment of the salvation of the Jewish people from those who would have them annihilated.

According to Esther 9:22, people offer food to their friends and money to the poor. Purim is also a time of obligatory drunkenness--observers of this holiday are supposed to get so drunk, according to Talmud, that they can't tell the difference between cursing the name of Haman and blessing the name of Mordecai!

If you don't make it to your local Purim celebration this weekend, you might try your hand at making triangular, jelly-filled Hamantaschen so you can join in the feasting!

picture courtesy of Wikipedia

Tuesday, March 11, 2014

Ask a Teacher - What the Hell Is That Scary Math Problem on the Internet? Why Does Common Core Hate Me?

So, earlier in the week, I saw a really weird thing that I didn't quite understand, and I shared it and was ready to clutch my pearls (FINALLY!), but alas, it was not to be. Turns out that silly math problem going around the internet is a bad example, but even if it wasn't, IT'S STILL NOT HARD, and IT ACTUALLY MAKES SENSE. It's true. They even convinced me (since I taught myself to do it later in life but didn't even know it) and I LOVE me some one-carrying.

Emily Blanton of Teaching Ain't For Heroes takes us through the SUGGESTED common core practice that is the "new" way.


I'm sure you've seen it by now. There's some picture floating around Facebook about "Common Core" math with the "Old Fashion Way" and the "New Way" to do math. In case you haven't seen it, here it is:

Yes, lots of people are losing their minds over this. And you know, it might look confusing at first, but it doesn't take much to figure out that this is a way to introduce metacognition to students to help them with their mental math. You do this in your head and you don't even realize that you do it. This blog post is the best explanation I've seen of how you do it all the time. When you go to the store and buy things, you don't bust out a calculator or get a pencil and paper to do it the "Old Fashion Way" carrying your ones and such. You make the numbers easier to manage in your brain.

Who taught you to do that? Did you learn to do it on your own? I mean, maybe you did. Maybe a parent told you. I know I learned it at school. If no one ever taught you to do that and you never figured it out on your own, people doing mental math must look like freaking wizards. Which is exactly what a lot of students who into high school math without learning mental math see their math teachers.

Math isn't the only place where students need mental exercises. We do it in English and Language Arts as well. How do you make inferences? When did you learn how to make them? Someone taught you or you picked it up naturally. Some students make it to high school completely at a loss of how to make inferences without being walked through it.

Yes, there are "easier" ways to do math using pencil and paper. However, the purpose of assignments in school is not to find the right answer. The point is to teach students how to find the right answer. If the purpose was finding the right answer and nothing else, you never would have had to show your work back in algebra. But you had to show your work so your teacher could see if you made a mistake along the way so they could help you fix it. Learning mental math is the same way. And practice makes perfect, so get used to seeing it for awhile.

I'd also like to point out that the example being passed around was likely made up by someone who doesn't actually teach this method. The first thing someone teaching this would say would be to cancel the twos in the ones position.



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