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Monday, October 31, 2011

Recipe Monday - Easiest Shepherd's Pie Ever

We do a lot of ground beef meals around here. It's the most accepted by the three year olds in the house. But darn if those meals don't get so boring after a while. For a quick fix, this will do you just fine.

  • 1 pound ground beef
  • 1 (14.5 ounce) can green beans, drained
  • 1 (10.5 ounce) can cream of mushroom soup
  • 1/2 onion, diced
  • 1 cup shredded Cheddar cheese
  • 2 cups mashed potatoes

  1. Preheat an oven to 350 degrees F (175 degrees C).
  2. Cook and stir ground beef in a skillet over medium-high heat until beef is browned, about 10 minutes. Drain fat. Mix in green beans, cream of mushroom soup, and onion.
  3. Pour beef mixture into a 2 quart casserole dish and top with Cheddar cheese. Spread mashed potato on top.
  4. Bake in the preheated oven until the pie is hot, and the mashed potatoes are golden brown, about 30 minutes. 

Sunday, October 30, 2011

Moment of the Week - 65: The Twins Sing Journey

Their musical tastes continue to improve.

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Saturday, October 29, 2011

Toddler Tricks - 65: The Halloween Edition

Problem: You are going trick or treating. But where should you go, what should your child wear, and how long should you stay out?

Solution: Let's take these one at a time.

Where: The obvious choice is your neighborhood and there is nothing wrong with that, provided your area is safe enough and the houses / apartments are close together. At this age, you'll be going with the kids, so you'll provide for them should anything confusing arise. Where I grew up, the houses were very far apart, so my parents would drive us to another neighborhood and follow us as we walked the streets, either by walking or by car. If you don't care to try your luck with random people in a random neighborhood, many public places hold safe, inside, trick or treating. Try your local grocery store, mall, churches and amusement parks for organized trick-or-treating events.

Costume: This is usually the child's choice, but take into consideration where you live. Are you in New England? Because it's snowing up there. To avoid conflict right off the bat, start suggesting costumes that are by nature warm (like a gorilla or a wolf) or a costume that a coat can easily fit underneath (like a snowman or Big Bird). Even better, suggest costumes where coats are part of the package, like a firefighter or a skier. Here in Florida, we don't have to worry about that.

How long to stay out: Again, pick up cues from your kid. If they show any signs of tiredness or irritability, start heading them home. They'll most likely want to stay out all night, but that's not a possibility, so really any time you cut it short will be treated like a travesty, whether it's 8 p.m. or 11 p.m. My family won't want to stay out until too far after dark, since we'll be trick or treating in the neighborhood and not in some organized event.

Make sure you match your child's candy bag to her age, too. I'm a glutton for candy, so you bet I want to arm my kids with queen-sized pillow cases, but I refrain. They'll be carrying little purses as part of their costumes, and the candy will go in that. The candy is for them, after all and they don't need pounds of it. Plus, it's easier for them to carry, even than those cute plastic pumpkins.

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Friday, October 28, 2011

How One Mom Reacted to the News of Having Twins

I just wrote this as part of a writing competition in which I'm taking part on another forum. It pretty much sapped my twin-writing energy, so I hope you don't see it twice, or mind seeing it twice if you do.

"You're having twins."

Just like that, she said it--no cushion, no soothing small talk, no sympathetic pat to the knee. As if she were telling me about the weather or making idle chat about the morning commute. As if she were just some ultrasound technician, and I were just some random pregnant patient awaiting the good news. Not realizing that she was the gatekeeper. Not realizing that she had just said "no" loud and clear in no uncertain terms.

"You're having twins."

Sitting there in the bright hospital lights, my smooth stomach covered in icky cold goo, I didn't believe her. I didn't even believe I was pregnant. That test (okay, those eight tests) I had bought had been wrong. It was a false reading, an odd, unexplained uptick in hormones, the full moon, whatever. It was not pregnancy.

I had just gotten a job in New York City the week before. The ink of my name was still wet on the contract that would now be tossed in the shredder. I was twenty fucking five. The world had just opened up for me, full of endless possibilities, each one flush with the promise of monetary success and corporate gain. The world was mine. I was at the beginning.

"You're having twins."


"Haha," I managed weakly. "Good one. You must do that to people all the time, huh?"

She looked up from her notes and shot me a smile, but it didn't reach her eyes. Her eyes were deathly serious.

"Oh, no," she said, striding over in the confident way of someone who was not having twins to show me the sonograms.

"See, there's Baby A and Baby B."

Baby A and Baby B.

"I can't be having twins," I said, trying to compose myself, tears streaming. "My boyfriend is going to kill me!"

Seven months later, I had twins--glorious, beautiful, 4-pound twins with no hair and no eyebrows. They were skinny, and scared, and mine.

And three years after that, well, I may not have my corporate success, but I still have my twins.

I have twins.

Three little words worth more money than the world has to offer.

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Thursday, October 27, 2011

Tantruming - I've Been Doing It Wrong

You know how the most obvious rule for getting a well-behaved toddler is to say something and then follow through with it? Apparently it's more difficult than I previously thought, since I had assumed I was doing it, and I was not.

I was following an old model. A model for babies. Not for toddlers. I was, in essence, teaching my kids to tantrum. Way to go, me. Aces.

It hit me last week. My kids were yet again crying and screaming about something ridiculous in public. We were at family art, and Natalina wanted to use glue, but this week's project didn't involve glue. She refused to take part in the activity and skulked around. When that didn't get her desired result, she went into puddle mode. Very embarrassing.

So, I did my normal "let's go" routine. I had to carry them both out, kicking and screaming. I've actually got a bruise on my leg. Even more embarrassing. And then I got them outside. And they calmed down immediately, promised to be good, and asked to go back in. And it dawned on me. This is where I usually say, "okay, let's try it again."

Am I insane? Am I that much of a sucker? Apparently I am because I have been doing this for months now. The pattern is predictable. Kids act unruly and embarrass mother. Kids are taken, usually forcibly, out of the place. Kids turn around and act like they might possibly be sorry. Kids get to go back and continue their day as if the entire incident never took place.


I mean, why would I do that? Lots of reasons, all silly.

1) I actually want them to have fun and do interesting things, and I can't understand why they wouldn't want the same thing and just be good from the get-go. Not wanting to deprive them of activities, when it appears the storm has passed, I want to allow them to do the fun things we should have been doing from the beginning.

2) I have been under the misapprehension that the girls are getting carried away by intense emotions they cannot help, and I have been thinking that their logic sets in after they have been able to calm themselves. I have been wanting to promote that logic and reward them when they appear to use it.

Haha, I'm such a sucker.

First of all, they are not 18 months old anymore. They can speak fluently, they know what they want and the proper avenues to take in order to get that. They can follow instruction and direction and they know enough of the world to understand how they should act to achieve their objectives. Runaway emotions, my elbow. They intentionally work themselves up into a lather because I allow them to. This is the reality I've introduced them to. If they think this is the way the world works, which they do, it's my fault for letting them think that. I have trained them to tantrum.

Secondly, we do plenty of fun things. They need me to guide them by setting a consistent example of how we will behave and how we will not behave. If I am saying, "No, we don't tantrum to get what we want," then I turn around and let them go back to the activity, I have sent them mixed messages. They then correlate tantruming, slight break, get what we want. That's not what I want. And it's not what they want, either. It must be confusing to be told one thing and then to have actions say another. And it's easier to act out when you are confused than when you know exactly what will happen each time.

So, this particular day, as they calmed down and asked to go back inside, I said no. I strapped them into the car (at this point they were blubbering, hysterical messes because my kids are very routine based, and this was not the routine). I drove away. I explained to them over and over again that we could try again next week and maybe then they would listen to mommy and behave. Over and over again.

They tried screaming. They tried kicking my chair. They tried crying loudly, softly, with words, without. They tried reasoning with me calmly. "I will behave now, mama. I am godin' to behave. I be good." I told them, that's great! I can't wait to see it next week. They were beside themselves.

I really shocked them. This is how little I follow the rule I thought I had been following. Do I ever actually follow through on my threats? Ever?

Well, I do now.

After that incident, I started the very simple act of doing exactly what I had said I was going to do if they acted in a certain way. I no longer allowed their change in demeanor after the fact influence me. I no longer paid attention to their wheedling and their toddler logic. If we miss a rehearsal here and they don't get a cookie there, well, that's that.

And it's easier. It's so much easier. Not only is it less confusing to them, it's less confusing to me. I no longer have to weigh the pros and cons in my head of any particular treat. Do they deserve it now even though they didn't a few minutes or an hour ago? Has the situation changed? Do they really really want to do it instead of just kind of want to do it?

None of that matters. You misbehave, you don't listen to me and fun things go away.

I know you'll all laugh at me since this is the cornerstone of good parenting, but I just saw the light a week and a half ago, and the results have been out of this world. I'm well on my way to having kids that don't embarrass me, and as parents, isn't that always the main goal?

Go ahead, poke fun in the comments. I deserve it.

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Wednesday, October 26, 2011

They Grow Up Too Fast?

I feel like kind of a jerk about this one. I feel like the only mother in the world that must feel this way. I feel like people will think it means I love my children less than others love their own. I swear I love my kids and I love every day with them and I do treat it like a gift (when I can remember to).

Even still, I just can't get behind the main sentiment of motherhood, one of the sayings that is supposed to bond all mothers to their babies and to each other, something everyone should basically be able to agree on, shaking their heads and brushing a tear from their eyes.

"They grow up too fast, don't they?"

"Why do they grow up so fast?"

Really? Am I alone here? I have never said that, not once. Not ever. Call me hard-boiled, but every day gets me farther from this toddler nightmare. Every day my children increase their abilities to reason and communicate just a tiny bit. Every day, they get bigger.

And I, for one, am thankful.

I know this is wrong. I know because when someone says the growing up fast thing to me at the super market or at the bank and I smile and reply, "Yup! They sure are, thank goodness!" I get weird looks.

I don't know. Maybe I'll regret this when they're 5 or 15 or 21, but from where I'm standing, every step toward cognizant behavior makes for a good day. These kids can't grow up fast enough. I love my three year olds, I do. That doesn't mean I want them to stay three. No sir. And when they were preemie infants, I didn't want them to stay babies, either. I prayed for today just like today I pray for two years from now.

I want my kids to grow. The faster the better. Go, babies, go!

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Tuesday, October 25, 2011

The Vaccinate Debate

Do you vaccinate your kids?

I do, and I'll tell you why.

Because I don't want my children out and about in a world where they could easily catch a deadly disease. A deadly disease that we have a means to fight. A deadly disease that I could immunize them against. It's like having an antidote right at my fingertips.

I've done the research on the vaccines my children receive. I know about the side effects and the potential harm. At the end of the day it comes to this: I don't want my kids dying of polio. I don't want them to suffer through the measles and mumps. Meningitis? Do not want.

In choosing to utilize the medical advances in this day and age, I am making an informed choice based on what I truly believe is best for my family. In calling vaccines medical advances, I show my clear bias in this debate. Because to me, that is what they are. Someone has something they could give my child to keep them from dying before the disease ever has the slightest chance of taking hold? As far as I'm concerned it's a go.

But I am not passing myself off as a scientific study. I am not promoting my point of view to the people at large, skewing data and attempting to persuade others to vaccinate. Do what you want, do what's best for your family as I do what's best for mine.

I am not this ridiculous study.

The piece is titled:

New Study: Vaccinated Children Have 2 to 5 Times More Diseases and Disorders Than Unvaccinated Children

Sounds daunting, doesn't it?

I snapped to attention. But then they actually start saying things, and those things don't make any sense.

Like how the writer wasted an entire paragraph explaining that the autism results were skewed because the study advertised on autism websites. This, I assume, was designed to assuage parental fears that vaccines are not tied to autism. It was to help them stomach the blow that the rest of us took in stride years ago, since, you know, it's been proven that vaccination has nothing to do with autism. But, no. If these parents are wondering about why the autism rate is the same for those vaccinated and not, it's because the founder of this excellent study, which is truly a random sampling of the population at large, asked specifically those who have children with autism to participate. See? The results are skewed, but only when it comes to this one thing. Other than that, they're totally normal. You can go on believing that vaccines can induce autism. Great.

Then there's this gem: "The only other bias in this study may include the fact that parents of unvaccinated children are obviously concerned about the health risks of vaccines, and are more likely to make other healthier choices such as feeding their children a much better diet and using more natural remedies and using fewer pharmaceuticals."

Are you kidding me with this? I'd like to see some facts to back that bogus claim up because the last time I checked, choosing to vaccinate or not vaccinate your kid had nothing to do with dietary choices. How dramatic of them, and worse, how patently false.

Oh, dear followers, fear not! The only bias this very conclusive and accurate study may possibly contain is the simple fact that you all love your children so much more than those mindless vaxxers. Be proud, be strong. We know when you choose not to vaccinate your child, you are concerned about their health. We know that since you must be concerned about the health complications of vaccines, you must also make better food choices for your child. The only bias in this study is that your young ones are better cared for in general and therefore they are healthy. Don't fault yourself for creating bias in this study. Not everyone can allow their little street rats to rummage through dumpsters or chow down on Mickey D's every day.

I'm not even touching homeopathy and natural medicine. I'll just say without poking fun that there is no evidence that natural medicine works better than pharmaceuticals.

But this is all secondary to the biggest problem with this study, which, to their credit, they address right at the top. The study is only of parents who do not vaccinate their children. The results are being compared to the population at large, meaning both vaxxed and unvaxxed kids. There is no study, nor has there ever been one that compares vaccinated kids to unvaccinated kids full stop. But don't worry, the study says. It's just like comparing vaxxed to unvaxxed, since practically 100 percent of the U.S. population is vaccinated.


Yeah, no. Get a real study, then come back to me.

Not only that, but let's remember that the parents filling out this survey are volunteers. They are probably very good people who believe in their cause and have healthy children. I sincerely doubt you're going to find thousands of parents of unvaccinated children where something went wrong clawing to get their hands on a study about how their choice may have failed them. No, you will see the success stories. And there's nothing wrong with that. The study , to me, does say one thing, that at least 8,000 kids who have gone unvaccinated are fine. And that does say something important. But it doesn't say what they're trying to make it say.

Vaccinate your kids. Or don't. I don't care. But make the decision based on real research. You know what's right for your family and you know why. No one can tell you differently. When deciding on something as important (and it is important) as whether or not to vax your child, don't go by information gathered in an "independent study with no conflicts of interest" put on by a company called

That's not unbiased, non-skewed, factual data. They tell you that right in the name. Make your own choices. The information is out there.

Web MD:
Mayo Clinic:
The AAP:

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Monday, October 24, 2011

Recipe Monday - Traditional Pork Chops

Pork chops should be easy, but are they? Not usually. I was either faced with a greasy fried mess or a dried baked mess. The solution? Fry them AND bake them. Observe.

Crunchy deliciousness on the outside, moist, juicy pork goodness on the inside.

1 egg, lightly beaten
3 tablespoons milk
1/2 cups Italian seasoned bread crumbs
1/4 cup grated Parmesan cheese
2 tablespoons dried parsley
2 tablespoons olive oil
2 cloves garlic, peeled and chopped
2 pork chops

1.Preheat oven to 325 degrees.

2.In a small bowl, beat together the eggs and milk. In a separate small bowl, mix the bread crumbs, Parmesan cheese, and parsley.

3.Heat the olive oil in a large, oven-proof skillet over medium heat. Stir in the garlic, and cook until lightly browned. Remove garlic, reserving for other uses.

4.Dip each pork chop into the egg mixture, then into the bread crumb mixture, coating evenly. Place coated pork chops in the skillet, and brown abut 5 minutes on each side. 

5.Place the skillet and pork chops in the preheated oven, and cook 25 minutes, or to an internal temperature of 160 degrees.

 These are so good. I'll make them this week, I think.

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Sunday, October 23, 2011

Moment of the Week - 64: You Sharing!

The girls put on another performance, this time switching instruments and sharing like good girls.

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Saturday, October 22, 2011

Toddler Tricks - 64: Replace an Activity with an Activity

Problem: You want to do something fun with your children, but you know that it will be so fun that they'll pitch a fit leaving. A screaming exit is always embarrassing, and, of course, you want to avoid it at all costs. So, how can you do fun things with your kids without the inevitable breakdown?

Solution: Start a different activity at home first. For me, baking is the foolproof activity that will get the kids back home in one piece. For instance, yesterday, I wanted to take them to the park. I told them we would go to the park, but first I wanted to bake some cookies. They agreed and helped me with the cookies. We popped them into the oven while we found our shoes and coats. Then, right before we left, I took them out of the oven and let the girls see them. Of course, they wanted a cookie right away, but they were burning hot. I told them that we had to let the cookies that they helped to make (making them active participants and invested in the cookies more than they would be in some prepackaged sweet that I would promise in vain hopes of getting them to leave the park.) In this way, the cookies as an object and as a fun activity were stamped into the twins' minds.

When it was time to leave the park, they started to give me trouble. I was able to say, but our cookies at home are cooled now! They remembered that activity with fondness, and they remembered the smell of the cookies and how much they'd wanted the sweets before we left for the park to begin with. They were suddenly eager to get back home, and we left the park with the least amount of trouble I've ever had.

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Friday, October 21, 2011

Thirty One Bags - WINNER!

I have a blog I'm sure you'll all enjoy about my failure as a parent, but for today, let's just pick a winner for the Thirty One Tote Bag, shall we?

I don't know how to do screen shots, so you'll just have to trust me when I tell you that the winner is...

Number 38.

Randi at A Modern Day Fairy Tale

If you didn't win, but you'd like the discount and other available deals, go ahead and visit Lorraine at Thirty One Gifts. She'll help you out!

Thank you all for playing, and I hope to do more things like this soon!

Thursday, October 20, 2011

Pass the Butter

Man, what happened to that butter, you may be wondering. My twins.

These days, the highlight of their dinner experience is buttering their own bread. We lend them our dull knives, which they've learned to ask for by name (I need my dool knife, mama.), and they go to town. I think last night a slab of the stuff ended up hitting Dulce right in the eye. They haven't quite mastered directional slicing.

Unfortunately for me, their learning leaves my butter a victim that I try to save each morning when I butter our toasts. Sometimes I can manage it, others, well, who needs beautiful butter anyway?

The real heartbreak of this story is that once the bread is buttered, the twins have no interest in actually eating it.

Oh well. At least they're not trying to eat the butter straight from the stick anymore. That was a fun phase.

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Wednesday, October 19, 2011

Call Off the Police Force

This must happen with all siblings, but with twins it's constant. Take a small child's need to be right, her desire to be good, splash in a good dose of competitiveness with her sister, and add a healthy dollop of identity confusion and you've got the tattler olympics going on. Every day.

"Mom, Lilly's sucking her finger again!"

"Mommy, Dulce put the sticker on the couch!"

"Mama, tell Lilly to get away from the TV."

"Dulce, you're breaking it! Mama, Dulce is breaking it!"


They want to hear not only that they are good, but that their counterpart is bad. It's not enough for them to behave. They need their twin to behave or pay the price.

And this would be acceptable, or at least survivable, if it weren't for the other faction. It's not enough for the girls to tattle on each other to me; they choose to extend their dictatorship to my actions. It's cute in a way because they band together to fight the authority, but it's not that cute.

If Natalina doesn't move her feet fast enough to the door to kiss her father goodbye as he goes to work, we are treated to a freaking out Dulce. "Lilly needs a hug! Lilly needs a hug! HEY! Stop!" Crying, shouting, the whole bit. Dulce, you're not Natalina's personal police force. Let her take care of her own.

If Lilly has to use the bathroom and Dulce doesn't? All I hear from Natalina is "Dulce use potty, Dulce use potty, mommy. Dulce has to go shee shee." Which she doesn't. But trying convincing Lilly of that.

If I banish one from the kitchen because she's getting too close to the hot stove, you can bet the other one will come in and give me a piece of her mind. "No, she needs to be in the kitchen. She just wants to be in the kitchen. Mama, mama, let her in."

So that even if I convince the one in the wrong that she is wrong, I've got the other one backing her up, and I have to start the whole thing again. And then I convince the other one (which is harder, since the other one has done nothing wrong so feels like she has more of an argument to make) and the first one is back in the kitchen. Around and around.

Girls, girls, call off the dogs. Call off the police force. I can see what's going on with my own eyes, and your interpretation, as convincing as you think it is, is not forwarding your case.

I pray for the days when a perceived injury to a sister is not taken so personally by the other twin. You're not the same kid, you know.

Someday they'll be eight, I just know it.

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Tuesday, October 18, 2011

Recap Meme - Best of

My friend Jo over at Poop on a Hot Tin Slide tagged me in this challenge. Good timing, I say. If you're interested in some blog highlights, here are my choices.

1. My most beautiful post: I don't really do beautiful posts, but this one is a nice memory for me. I've come up against a lot of static for being a stay at home mom, but sometimes people surprise you, and hard work is recognized for what it is. One morning, after an already very bad day, a random few strangers buoyed me up by recognizing the good, and not the bad, of being a stay at home mom.

 2. My most popular post: I wrote a piece on Heather Clouse, a woman whom I don't know and have barely read. I wrote it after seeing complaint after complaint about her judgment, advice, and less-than-satisfying writing in the realms of military wives and teen moms. I believe she's deleted all of the links I put in the piece, but here it is. Just because you can doesn't mean you should.

3. My most controversial post: Probably the post where I argue with a childless / childfree person about, well, everything. Childish.

4. My most helpful post: In a practical way? Maybe my potty training posts? Either my review of the worst potties ever and why you shouldn't buy them...or my post about actually training my kids. Quitting and failing aren't the same thing.

OH! If you're a twin mom, maybe surviving twins the early months.

5. A post whose success surprised me: The post where I brought down an inane facebook meme that said something like if you don't take care of your makeup then you love your kids THE MOST. I didn't agree.

6. A post I feel didn’t got the attention it deserved: Hmm, probably the post about the importance of identity to twins and kids in general. Not because it was super-awesome-amazing, but because it was a major revelation to me in my own life. The Identity Crisis.

 7. The post that I am most proud of:The first post I ever made. I argue with a new mom who is going around in Marie Claire telling other mothers how easy parenting is and they need to suck it up and be better parents like her and everything would be fine. Your Mileage May Vary.

Now for the tagging...

Monika at Aias dot ca
Joella at Fine and Fair
Farren Square

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Monday, October 17, 2011

Recipe Monday - Portuguese Fish Stew with an American Twist

My husband is Portuguese, and every once in a while I'll try to branch out and make some of their cuisine. But it's hard. Portuguese recipes were not fashioned with quick and easy in mind. I found a recipe for traditional Fish Stew online, and I changed it to suit our needs / ingredients. It came out amazingly well! Even if I did burn the sandwiches I made to go with it.

  • 2 pounds fresh fish of your choice (I used a bag of mixed fish...calamari, clams, mussels, and shrimp, plus two white fish fillets.)
  • 5 table spoons olive oil
  • 1 carrot
  • 2 potatoes
  • 1 onion
  • 4 garlic cloves
  • 1 pound good red tomatoes (I used a can of diced tomatoes with chili pepper infusion)
  • 1 red chili (see above)
  • 1 cup white wine
  • salt and pepper to taste
  • 6 pints water

  • Boil the fish and the prawns in water seasoned with salt and bay leaf.
  • Use a big pot and start cooking the chopped onion, garlic and carrot in olive oil. Let it be in low heat for 10 minutes stirring occasionally so it doesn't burn.
  • Add the skinless potato in cubes, the tomato and the wine. Let it cook for 10 minutes and don't forget to stir.
  • Save the boiled fish water and add to your vegetables. (hahaha, yeah right. At this point I poured the vegetables into the boiling fish water. I'm not good at pouring, separating and warming)
  • Taste it and season again if needed. It's time to add the chili pepper. (Already added with the diced tomatoes)
  • While you let the soup cook, get rid of the fish bones. (Fish bones?! I don't buy fish with bones. Or heads. Just saying.)
  • 45 minutes later take out the chili and the bay leaf and use a hand blender to transform your veggies and water into a nice broth. (There's no getting around this one. You've got to blend a few cups of this to thicken it. I obviously left the chili in, though.)
  • After blended add the fish, prawns and chopped coriander leaves. (I didn't have to use this step)
  • Cook for 10 minutes more and serve.

Sunday, October 16, 2011

Moment of the Week - 63: Jam Session

Are you weady to wock?

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Saturday, October 15, 2011

Toddler Tricks - 63: You'll Ruin It

Problem: When my kids were younger, they had an obsession with wearing shoes. They always wanted to be wearing shoes. It got to the point where they even begged to nap in them. These days, they're good with shoes on or off, but sometimes they still want inappropriate things at nap time, like their princess dresses, or necklaces, or some hard plastic dolls. You don't want to start nap off with a screamfest, so what do you do?

Solution: This started off as the truth, but when my kids hear a reason that makes sense to them, they stick with it, regardless of object in question. And who am I to look a gift-horse in the mouth? I run with it. One day, they wanted to wear their princess dresses to bed. I said, "Oh, no, you can't. You'll ruin it." "Woon it?" "Yup." and I sat them down, showed them the threaded seams and how those would most like rip apart in their sleep. Seeing it physically like that cemented the reasoning in their minds and it was reasoning they accepted. I only had to do it once. Now, whenever they want to wear sunglasses, shoes, or bring their million blocks into bed with them, I simply say, "No, you can't, you'll ruin it/them." And they quietly nod and let it go. Magic.

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Friday, October 14, 2011

Thirty One Bags - Giveaway!

Remember when I wrote about purses? How big they have to be, how messy they get (both inside and out?), how much they have to carry and how ugly they can be?

My friend, Lorraine Inman, has graciously offered up a large utility tote from Thirty One Gifts to one of my readers. (I'm thinking diaper bag, but it could easily make for a great beach bag or toy organizer.)

Here's a better summary from another one of my friends who I didn't even know was a consultant...Thanks, Becky!

"Just FYI, this particular bag is a touch too big for a diaper bag, but it's fantastic as a trunk organizer, beach tote, or even portable toy box. And, this is actually the hostess special for the month - if you host a part you can buy this bag for a discount. The customer special is the Organizing Utility Tote ($25.00 value) at a discounted price, which makes a phenomenal diaper/beach/pool bag and a really awesome everyday to-and-from work bag.

Good luck everyone, and congrats to the winner - hopefully you'll LOVE these products as much as I (and many others) do!"

The bag will look like this, and comes in ten different patterns!

 It's got a retail value of $30, but it's an October Special, for hostesses. Thirty One has a ton of other bags, totes and organizers, too, if you'd like to check them out to find one for your specific needs.

I don't really know how these party-throwing, buy-stuff-from-a-friend thing works, but from what I understand, if you're totally into it, you can book a party through Lorraine, or become a consultant yourself.

Go get 'em, right?

Anyway, it's easy to enter to win this tote.

 All you have to do is follow me. You'll get an entry each for any one of these follows:

1) GFC (it's on the sidebar there.)

2) Facebook: Tales of an Unlikely Mother

3) Twitter: @Parentwin

Leave me a comment for each different follow for another entry.

If you already follow me and still want to win the tote, don't worry! Just advertise this giveaway on your facebook, twitter, or blog and leave a comment here with the link!

I'll draw the winner next Friday!

Don't forget to check out all their other stuff, too. They've got some really cute designs! 

PS - I advertised this at Online Sweepstakes, as well.

Thursday, October 13, 2011

Their Photography Skills are Coming Along

Remember last time I posted about the girls' photography? It had just gone from blurry mess to slightly in focus mess?

They're onto framing subjects now, and I'm pretty sure half the pictures they take are better than mine.

Lilly took this one. She gave Dulce her bear as a prop.

Morning music session.

Sick of me yet? They practice on me a lot. And yeah, I should probably start doing my hair. I guess.

Yes, Dulce cut off her head a bit. But look at the candid shot. Not bad, eh?

Anyway, rechargeable batteries, folks. They're lifesavers.


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Wednesday, October 12, 2011

Hilarious History

My husband's brother has a boy a few months older than the girls. He sent us a video of his son answering many historical questions correctly.

Who was the first President?
George Washington.

Who was the sixteenth President?
Abraham Lincoln.

Who is the current President?

Who said the British are coming?
The British are coming!
Who said that?
Paul Revere.

So, Carlos and I decided to test our own children. (I haven't taught them one damn historical thing...but you can bet I'm going to start.)

Where do you live?
The living room.

Who was the first President?

Who was the sixteenth President?

Who is the current President?

Who said the British are coming?
The British are coming! (I guess this is a fun phrase for toddlers to say?)
Right. Who said that?

Touche, babies. Touche.

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Tuesday, October 11, 2011

Finger-Sucking Good

When the twins were infants, I rejoiced and counted my blessings for many reasons, not the least of which being that they refused to take a pacifier.

What luck! I thought. No constant disinfecting of plastic tabs, no finding gross old pacis under the couch, no losing every single dummy just when I need one the most. No crying at night or during nap when the babies couldn't find their little rubbery paradise.

No, my kids were smart. They chose the pacis that would never leave them. Natalina decided on her thumb. Dulce sucked her two fingers, which, as she got bigger, changed to just her pointer finger.

Well, that was short-sighted thinking, wasn't it? I say three years later. Because while all my friends are using the "pacifier fairy" (hi Alison!) and simply taking the dummies away, my kids still have their fingers and thumbs. Not even the best, most adept, pacifier fairy could take a child's digits away.

So what would have been a few days or maybe even a few weeks of begging, whining, sleepless nights, a few tantrums here and there, is for me a constant battle.

"Take your finger out of your mouth; you'll break your teeth."

"Don't suck on your thumb, baby, you'll pull your teeth forward."

"Just a little suck my finger, mama?"

"I'd prefer not, boo. You don't want to break your teeth, right?"

To my amazing luck, they've taken to this pretty well. Apparently breaking their teeth is a concept they can grasp, and something they don't want to risk, even for the comfort of sucking. And they still have their loveys (which usually go hand in hand with sucking behavior), to help them through the rough patches.

My heart swells with pride when I see them push their loveys up to their little faces, almost in the comfort position, the only piece missing being the thumb or finger in the mouth. Instead, that thumb or finger lingers just millimeters from its intended goal. But it never goes in. Well, almost never. And it's been only a few days.

And two unexpected perks? Now that they're concerned with their teeth, they want to brush them all the time. And now that they know at night they can sneak a suck here and there because I'm not in their room, they go to bed quite a bit easier. Winning all over the place.

What big girls I have. What strong-willed, amazing girls. They might just save me $8,000 in dental bills yet.

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Monday, October 10, 2011

Recipe Monday - Harvest Peach Pie

This pie is firm, not runny, sweet but not too sweet, and the lemon juice contrasts in such a way with the cinnamon and nutmeg to give it a true fall flavor. It's a huge hit over here. In fact, it's almost gone.

  • 1 (15 ounce) package pastry for a 9 inch double crust pie
  • 1 egg, beaten
  • 5 cups sliced peeled peaches
  • 2 tablespoons lemon juice
  • 1/2 cup all-purpose flour
  • 1 cup white sugar
  • 1/2 teaspoon ground cinnamon
  • 1/4 teaspoon ground nutmeg
  • 1/4 teaspoon salt
  • 2 tablespoons butter

  1. Preheat the oven to 450 degrees F (220 degrees C).
  2. Line the bottom and sides of a 9 inch pie plate with one of the pie crusts. Brush with some of the beaten egg to keep the dough from becoming soggy later.
  3. Place the sliced peaches in a large bowl, and sprinkle with lemon juice. Mix gently. In a separate bowl, mix together the flour, sugar, cinnamon, nutmeg and salt. Pour over the peaches, and mix gently. Pour into the pie crust, and dot with butter. Cover with the other pie crust, and fold the edges under. Flute the edges to seal or press the edges with the tines of a fork dipped in egg. Brush the remaining egg over the top crust. Cut several slits in the top crust to vent steam.
  4. Bake for 10 minutes in the preheated oven, then reduce the heat to 350 degrees F (175 degrees C) and bake for an additional 30 to 35 minutes, until the crust is brown and the juice begins to bubble through the vents. If the edges brown to fast, cover them with strips of aluminum foil about halfway through baking. Cool before serving. This tastes better warm than hot.

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Sunday, October 9, 2011

Saturday, October 8, 2011

Toddler Tricks - 62: Wrong Side of the Bed

Problem: Your little one wakes up with the attitude of a hungry bear. He's cranky, grumpy, tantrum-prone and just an all-around treat to start off your day. You've tried singing to him, letting him wake you up, waking him up, doing things and letting him sleep, reading to him, playing with him. You've tried being super happy, being super calm and gently, being ambivalent, nothing works. Your toddler wants to start ruining your day first thing in the morning.

Solution: Ignore him. Completely ignore him, and I'm not even joking. Let him get up and do his own thing. Don't be fooled if he says "Mommy" sweetly. It may be a trap. Go over, of course, to see if he's ready to converse with you, but if after that mommy you see a sour little face, walk away. He was just kidding. He was just trying to get you in there for your daily beating. Don't let him.

I know with my girls, I've been so used to starting my day with them, inundated with them right off the bat, that it took me a while to figure this out. When babies wake up, they need things. Diaper changes, milk, cuddles. Toddlers don't. Trying to bust a move with them and force them to get dressed and go to the bathroom the second after they wake up will end in tears...for everyone. If I even acknowledge them in the mornings before they are ready to talk to me, I will regret it. I will be treated to tantrums and illogical madness. While my kids are never particularly good at logic, in the morning they are in rare form.

They'll usually creep out of their room and dare me to look at them, talk to them, try to play with them. If I can avoid that first trap, they'll chill in a corner and start to get interested in their toys. Eventually, they'll play by themselves enough to shake the morning cloudiness and forget that they're supposed to be grumpy bears that eat my head off. Usually they'll come up to share a toy discovery with me. Then I know I'm in the clear and I can start getting them ready for the day. It usually only takes about 15 minutes, and, honestly, in that 15 minutes I get to have some adult time, too, and everyone starts the day better. On their own terms.

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Friday, October 7, 2011

Save the Children

"For just one dollar a day, you could feed a child for life."

We all know those commercials. The ones where the missionary-type person is walking around an impoverished nation, loving kids in front of the camera and begging for our help. The children are starving. They really do need help. Their stomachs are swollen and distended, their limbs are gaunt, their eyes are big...sad and hopeful.

We feel moved, saddened, upset with the state of the world. We think, what a great PSA. If I had an extra dollar a day, I would totally give it to these people. In fact, someday I'm going to. I'm going to help save the world. Maybe tomorrow. Maybe next week.


As much as we hate to admit it because we don't want to look like the hard-hearted people we are, these television spots and magazine spreads have ceased to work. All they do is make the viewer feel like a good person for seemingly feeling sympathy and outrage for these poor people. But not enough sympathy or outrage to give up our ordered coffee each morning to help feed them.

In essence, these spots are doing the opposite of their intent. They're soothing the slacktivist instead of needling them into action. And they're not getting the money they need.

With that said, I give you this:

In the video, activists put a tape recording of a baby crying in a blanket in a box and leave it on the sidewalk. Passersby think there is an actual child in there, and many stop. On the television we get to clutch our hearts and swear at the world before clicking the channel. On the street, if you come across an abandoned baby in a box, you're going to stop. Already you've done more than the TV watcher. Already the activists have created more awareness than the old PSAs do at this point.

By taking a problem that seems far away, and making it real, tangible, right in front of us, you succeed in reaching a different part of people. A part that is called to action inherently. A part that doesn't have anything to do with the self-congratulatory voice inside of us, telling us what a good person we are going to be someday. In fact, those passers-by aren't even thinking about themselves at all. They're thinking, oh God, someone left a baby on the street. They stop to help. They never think about how awesome they are once.

And that's an eye-opening experience for them all on its own. By jarring them into action before thought, they realize how good they actually are deep down. They feel even better about themselves because they have an instinct they never even knew about, and now they know that they can count on that instinct, that they will stop and help.

And if they were willing to stop and help a baby on the street, which would have been a lot of work, distraction, paper shuffling, commitment, and confusion, wouldn't they be willing, instead, to donate a dollar a day to the cause? It achieves the very same thing they were about to try to do, anyway, for a real person, not a tape recording, and it's a lot easier.

Well done, I say. Bravo.

Save the children.


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Thursday, October 6, 2011

Why Don't Cartoon Dogs Talk?

This is a serious question. I mean, sure, some cartoon dogs talk, but of all cartoon species, the dog is often the silent one, full of woofs and pants, but no words. Even the dog in Word World itself has no words. You could argue that dogs are meant always as pets, but in Blue's Clues the cats talk. Heck, even the salt and pepper shakers talk. Just not the dogs. Same for Garfield, talking cats, non-talking dogs. And one of the only Looney Toons not to talk? Wile E. Coyote. Why don't dogs talk? Does anyone know?

Talking Dogs:

Brian talks, poking fun of cartoon dogs not traditionally talking (I think). It comes up as a joke often enough, anyway.

Clifford and all his friends talk, in disparity with the original book series.

Goofy talks. But not Pluto. What the heck? Because a dog is a mouse's pet he doesn't get to talk, but a stray (and let's not forget Pete, either...Wait, hold the phone. I was just informed that Pete is a cat. Mind blown. 29 years of knowledge rocked. Whoa.) gets full vocal range?

Underdog talks. That's kind of necessary if you're going to save the world, I suspect.

Dogs that don't talk:

And I've left out dozens on either side. Still, it would seem there are more non-talking dogs than talking dogs, and each specific character seems to have a unique reason for not speaking (or speaking) although I can't figure out what that reasoning is. Are there any trends? Does anyone know the reasoning behind this? Why don't cartoon dogs talk?

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Wednesday, October 5, 2011

It's Art; Let Them Do It

On Saturdays, we do a family specials program that the kids love. We do gym, art, and music in quick succession. It's metered out to a toddler's attention span. For an adult, well, it's quick enough to make your head spin.

Anyway, during the art portion, they set up small, fun projects for the kids to do. One strange thing I noticed? The parents are doing the projects. Why? The teachers are encouraging this, too. I don't get it.

They had the parents "help" the kids paint a yellow sun the other day. They had the parents put the sun's eyes in place. They had the parents glue a yarn smile on the sun.

I had my kids do it. Our suns looked just like everyone else's...almost.

Are their smiles as bright and even as the others? No, not quite. Are their eyes in the right spot and perfectly separated? Nope. Is their yellow smoothly painted with no mess? Absolutely not. But they did it. All by themselves.
And the noses? Everyone in that class had a sun with the nose because my girls looked at the completed craft and said, "Hey, where's the nose?"

"Great point," said the teacher. She brought out those puffs and noses were had by all.

Would any of the other kids come up with that since their parents were doing their projects for them? Maybe. But they didn't.

This is not to say I think doing your kids' projects is wrong or bad, but, personally, I want these little things as keepsakes. I want the girls to look back on them in 10 years when they go through storage boxes and see exactly what they did -- by themselves -- at three.

They hung them up in their room by themselves, too. Well, almost. I did the tacking part, but they picked out the spots and held their suns for me.


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