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I Used to Bake a Lot of Cookies… And Then I Had Kids

Back in 1993 when I was a 31-year old newlywed, I used to cook all the time. I received many extravagant wedding gifts and I loved to use all the kitchen appliances: bread maker; pasta maker; juicer; waffler; Cuisinart with all the gadgets. I prepared an amazing bruschetta with fresh roma tomatoes, basil and garlic, and the more often I made it, the more immune I became to garlic. I made my last big batch when Emily was just a few months old and it reeked of so much garlic it would have scared away the cast of Twilight, and I was forced to pump & dump because Emily refused to breastfeed my stinky milk for a day.

These days, I’m not much of a cook. I try to spice up a box of Hamburger Helper by replacing pork chunks for ground beef or adding a pack of frozen peas, but that’s the extent of my culinary creativity.

We don’t have the budget to eat out or buy take out. If we did, my family would be regular customers at every eatery within a 3-mile radius. Because I’m usually overbooked, I tend to stock up on Costco or Trader-Joe’s ready-made meals. Unfortunately, the rest of the family is sick of them and are now boycotting anything that comes in a 2-quart plastic container.

But before I had kids, I was one heck of a baker, which seems backwards since you’d think I’d be baking more with my kids. Back then I owned a home with a spacious gourmet kitchen and a double oven, and I had the luxury of actually getting the baking dishes washed while my treats were cooking instead of spending that time pouring apple juice, pulling out the bin of Barbies and grabbing Neosporin and a Bandaid. Now I have a trampoline that is bigger than my whole kitchen, my oven temperature has a mind of its own, and my collection of baking utensils has dwindled down to one cracked mixing bowl and a four-quart measuring cup.

Back in the 1980’s and early ‘90’s I used to be a quiet co-dependant and created lavish cheesecakes and birthday cakes and spent the holidays frantically baking up a storm for all my co-workers as an effort to make them like me. It turns out they liked me without me having to kiss their stomachs, and they showed me their gratitude by taking up a collection and buying me a Kitchen Aide mixer. I paid them back by getting pregnant shortly thereafter and rarely baking again.

One Christmas I baked four different kinds of bar cookies, rice krispie squares, peanut butter fudge, 10 dozen cupcakes, 6 batches of brownies, and 100 dozen cookies. It took me from Friday through Sunday night with very little sleep in between, and I packed up the variety in large baskets for each department at work. I have a picture somewhere and I wish I could find it. My arms are outstretched in front of row after row of cardboard boxes piled high with baked goods. It’s the only proof I have that I’m not exaggerating, because personally, I wouldn’t believe me either.

I’m not quiet or co-dependent any more, but the main reason I don’t bake like Mrs. Fields is because I’m just too busy. I always donate something to the school bake sales, but in most cases they’re the slice & bake cookies, or brownies or cupcakes that just need eggs, oil and water added. My kids love the latter because they get to lick the cracked bowl and wooden spoon. Unfortunately I tend to find time to bake hours after they’ve gone to bed, so the licking of utensils is a rare treat.

Tom is definitely the chef of the family. He’ll make a big pot of jambalaya or chili, and I will continue to eat the leftovers for lunch day after day and never get sick of them. I make a complete fool of myself at potlucks because I am not too proud to take home all the leftovers. I figure it’s saving me over $100 in food and about 5 hours of cooking/cleaning time for the week. I have no idea what kind of reputation I have when I’m out of earshot. Are people making oinking sounds? Do they think I’m the porker at the all-you-can-eat buffet? It really doesn’t matter because as I said, I’m not too proud.

For the past couple of weeks, I’ve been creating vlogs (video blogs) for YouTube’s MomPulse Network for their Question of the Week. Since this week asks What is your favorite recipe? I decided that it was a great excuse to make the time to bake something with my kids, and also buy a much-needed measuring cup. Together we prepared the dessert that used to tempt even the most hardcore Weight Watchers member: Monster Cookies.

If you have three minutes, please follow this link to watch me and my kids make this delectable treat. I dare you not to drool.

And if you’re reading this, I invite you to come over for an extravagant dinner party in which I serve freshly made pasta, homemade baked bread, and a few side dishes that take me hours to prepare. Unfortunately, you’ll have to wait until all the kids have left for college.

 

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Vacationing Around the World Via Green Screen

Our family enjoying Splashtopia while we vacation at Rancho Las Palmas in Rancho Mirage.

I’m not much of a world traveler. My last passport expired in 1988 and I haven’t even been on a plane since before 9/11. But last Saturday at the Colfax World Fair, photographer Craig Damon gave me and my kids the opportunity to travel throughout the world without paying for airport parking or experiencing a minute of jetlag.

Jake and I walked over 5,000 miles along the Great Wall of China, but on the way back he said he was too tired, so I had to carry him.

Here Jake and I are at the Taj Mahal. I stopped him just in time before he drew a picture of SpongeBob in Sharpie on the mausoleum.

Mary and I traveled to Egypt to see the pyramids. She was very disappointed that there was no casino with an all-you-can-eat buffet.

Now we’re swimming with the fishes in the beautiful Caribbean. Pretty cool that our clothes never got wet.

Mary and I were amazed at the height of the Eiffel Tower. We tasted about 50 different kids of cheese and then the next day we were completely constipated.

Jake was really excited about visiting Mount Rushmore because he learned about it on an episode of Phineas and Ferb. Jake figured that they were the ones who took away the presidents’ bodies.

Being the teenager that she is, Emily didn’t really want to travel the world with her uncool mom, so I convinced her to join me on a trip to Titus – Saturn’s largest moon. Unfortunately Emily forgot to pack the lower half of her body. Either that or Phineas and Ferb stole it too, and are hiding it somewhere near Mount Rushmore.

You would think that with all this traveling I would have thought to bring a change of clothes.

Next year at the Colfax World Fair I’m hoping that Craig takes me on a trip to Tahiti. Maybe for that vacation I’ll take my husband and leave the kids at the fair.

 

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America’s Got Talent – But What About My Son Jake?

Just like Sleeping Beauty, when each of my daughters was born, a good fairy floated down over their angelic heads and bestowed upon them the gift of song.

The gift appeared early with Emily when she was two and she sang non-stop. She got the Christmas solo in preschool and by the 2nd grade she landed the lead in every school musical. In middle school, as an incoming 6th grader, she won the school talent contest when she sang “Shy” from Once Upon a Mattress and her microphone went out. Her voice continued to ring to the last seat in the auditorium.

Mary is four years younger and we were concerned about her following in Emily’s footsteps. How could she compete with her sister’s reputation? But we needn’t have worried because Mary developed her own voice, which was as powerful and clear and pitch-perfect as Emily’s. After playing the leads in the same musicals Emily performed in, Mary is now singing leads in a middle school performing arts academy.

And then there’s Jake.

If a good fairy hovered over his head when he was a wee infant, I’m not sure yet what gift was bestowed upon him. The gift of joke, perhaps. Maybe the gift of never shut up. He chatters on incessantly about absolutely anything. If Jake’s around there is no such thing as silence. The only exception is if he is meeting someone new, and no matter how many times I’ve coached him on saying, “Hello. Nice to meet you,” he just silently hides under my pants.

Jake ran toward 3rd base instead of 1st in tee-ball and he kicked the ball more than he dribbled it in basketball. Although he’s performing relatively well in school, he’s still a bit squirmy, so it’s doubtful that he’ll make any kind of kindergarten honor roll this year.

The elementary school holiday show was a couple of weeks ago, and it was the first event I went to since I had shingles.I was so excited to see Jake and the other kindergartners sing “Dreidel Dreidel Dreidel” and “Ten Little Angels in the Band.”

Jake's in the front row on the right

Because Jake’s one of the younger, shorter ones, he was in the front row. We’d practiced the songs a dozen times, so I knew he could sing them. And yet, when the other children started singing, there was my Jake – swaying and moving his mouth silently to something that had nothing to do with the tunes the other kids were singing. He looked like Ray Charles, if Ray was singing the wrong song.

It looks like Jake will not be inheriting his sisters’ talent for singing.

Although Jake did not acquire the gift of song, he constantly sings a little ditty his friend Griffin taught him:

Jake's self portrait

A B C D E F G

Gummy bears are chasing me.

One is red. Once is blue.

One is chewing on my shoe.

I have to run for my life

Because the red one has a knife.

Ahhhhhhhh!!!!!

I was thrilled to death recently when I heard my husband laughing hysterically, calling me into the living room to watch Jake. Jake was wearing his new elf shirt and two different Christmas socks. He had built himself a small dance floor with his big plastic waffles and was singing the rap song “Who Let the Dogs Out?” and dancing in a way that was half Michael Jackson, half complete spaz. I caught it on my smart phone and posted it on YouTube. If you’re looking for it, it’s called “Jake sings Who Let the Dogs Out?” and would you believe there is a second video with the exact same name? Ours is the funnier one with more hits. It’s just a minute long, so I encourage you to check it out. Just click on this link:

Jake sings Who Let the Dogs Out?

It looks like the good fairy did bestow a gift upon my infant son Jake: the gift of spaz.

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