We recently returned from a trip to Denver to visit with my sister and her family. It was a great trip. I completely logged off all my techie tools (ok, almost, there was a periodic post to Facebook of the cousins playing). It was a great feeling. The trip was just what I needed, a change of scenery especially after what felt like a very long winter.
However as I boarded the plane on Monday I couldn’t escape the feeling of being under the mommy microscope. Or the feeling that I rely on other people too much to help with the kids. I think about it and I was always handing off my youngest to either my mother, my step-father or my sister so I could take care of my oldest.
I noticed last night after story-time at the library, the boys and I went to a park with another family, and again I found myself passing off my youngest to take care of the oldest. (I’m pretty lucky these people are great, and trustworthy.) And again, last night as I laid in bed all I could think about is why I cant just do it all.
I worry about what my sister, mother, step-father and these new family friends think of my lack of multi-tasking. I worry they say, ‘she passes off Theo way too much’. I worry they think I expect them to help.
I feel like I fail at that part of parenting. Not able to multi-task.
When I signed up to become a single mother by choice, I did my research. Boy did I do my research. But the one thing that isn’t written anywhere is how to handle multiple tasks at once. Nowhere does it say this multi-tasking is a required trait of motherhood.
Since the three of us haven’t spent too much time together this past week and we are heading into a couple of busy weeks for us, I am completely stressed about my lack of multi-tasking and getting through these next weeks. How am I going to handle a birthday party? How am I going to handle a garage sale? Cleaning the house? Play dates? Unfinished projects around the house? And quality time together?
I woke up early this morning due to this stress, and thought I had an idea that could work – Ergo Baby Carrier – but failed immediately once I saw the price. In addition, my youngest is completely mobile and wouldn’t want any part of it. I’m back to the blank slate for ideas. And maybe there aren’t any brilliant ideas and I just need to take it one day at a time, be kind to myself and not worry what others think.
I think I’ve talked about this before. Its always on my mind.
I don’t even know where to start with it. Even sitting down to write this I have many long pauses between sentences and thoughts.
I should probably start with I never was a big dater, even in high school. I remember clearly my first high school crush was on this boy Mike. Mike was tall, thin, curly mullet hair with a big smile and big brown eyes. But he never wanted to get to know me. Probably because we ran with different crowds, moreso I was still trying to find my place in that world seeing I had just moved to the area.
The boys I did date I always felt like I had to date them because they were interested in me, not because I was interested in them. I also felt ashamed to be dating them because they didn’t meet the match of the ‘popular’ people – the crowd at the time I desperately wanted to be a part of.
My insecurities kept me back from many things, let alone a good solid boyfriend. Even to this day, they are still around holding me back from meeting the nice guy. My frustration with them is exhausting. The questions are never-ending and play over and over in my mind, I cant believe I am actually going to say these out loud – how do I know I am doing ‘it’ right? Or is this what I am supposed to be doing – holding hands in public, saying this or that?
These foolish insecurities that I’ve been carrying with me since my teens, that probably attributed to the demise of my marriage when I was in my twenties, are getting to a point where they either grow up or move out. I can feel them surfacing now, when I am starting to entertain the idea of dating.
How can I expect to even meet someone when these stupid things are hanging around? Why at this age should I even care what other people think?
I go back and forth with these all the time. I also worry about dating takes time and that is time away from my kids. My kids are young right now and they are changing every single day, and I waited far too long to become a mother – especially in an unconventional way – that I am not sure I want to miss these days. So unless I know right away the guy is a possibility there is no point in my dating.
But then I get real lonely at family functions or especially as of late a work banquet where everyone was there with their spouse or significant other (literally I was the only person without a ‘plus one’). Talk about awkward and it is then I know for sure I want to be with someone.
So how do I do this? On the recommendation from a friend, I joined a dating site. I’ve viewed profiles, found a few interesting, took time to write a few and I’ve heard nothing. Don’t get me wrong, I’ve received interest from what seems like the clan of Duck Dynasty, I’ve learned that what they say about black men is true (clear pictures and all were included), and know that men are definitely interested in women younger than them, like 20 years younger. It is with this I close my computer with disgust and defeat and crawl into bed and want to cry my eyes out. Though as quickly as I find myself in this funk I am just that quicker brought back to reality with the cries from the boys bedroom. As I pick up my teething infant I figure dating can wait just a little bit longer.
**picture is of Stefan, my last boyfriend. This was three months prior to my pregnancy with my eldest son.
By Evie Peck
It was an overcast morning.
“Wanna go to the park?” I asked, when I saw that my 19-month-old son Spenser had pulled everything out of his kitchen cabinet (all the stuff that is child safe like my Gladware, boxes of jello, bags of pasta etc.).
“Yeah!” he said, but he would have said that if I had asked him if he wanted to go to the doctor for a shot. He’s just enthusiastic.
So we went. We went to the nicest park near me, which is in a super rich neighborhood. This park is just a little cleaner and it’s smallish and I just convince myself it’s great because it’s surrounded by mansions.
There was no one there.
About five or six utilities trucks and one Prius stopped at the park and different men over the age of 50 tried to use the men’s bathroom, but it was locked. Creepy or smart? A little of both, I think.
Spenser and I played. We went down the slide together and I got soaking wet (from the drizzle and dew).
Then a dad and kid came along. “We love this weather,” the dad said to me. He had a British accent.
“I like it too,” I told him.
British dad’s child was 2 and so S played with her and British dad and I chatted. He seemed like a nice dad. Then he asked, “Are you going to have another child?”
OK, um, so personal!! But thank you for thinking I’m young enough to have that option (who knows, maybe I could).
“Maybe,” I said. I wasn’t going to tell him I was a single mom or anything.
Well, British dad wanted to really get into it with me. “My wife wants to, but I don’t.”
Wow. That was super personal!
“It’s hard to believe you could love another child as much as this one.” I put words in his mouth, so he wouldn’t horrify me.
“Yeah,” he said. “Right.”
“Well, everyone I know with two children says they felt that way, but they love the second as much.”
British dad nodded.
I think it would be really hard to be married to someone and have such a huge disagreement where one person might be really unhappy with the outcome. I mean, that’s part of marriage, I know, I’m just saying, marriage seems so difficult; like how are you expected to live your whole life with someone and compromise all the time??? I can’t help but think about how if I wanted another baby, I could just have one (or try to). There’s a lot of freedom in being a mom solo.
Another dad and child came along. This dad was pretty handsome -tall, rugged, athletic, lots of nice hair… his child had brought a bunch of trucks that Spenser wanted to put sand on and push around.
“Share, Patrick,” Handsome dad said to his son.
Patrick reluctantly let Spenser push around one of his toy trucks.
“You have the dumpy,” Handsome dad said to Patrick, pointing to a toy dump truck.
“Thanks, for sharing the truck, Patrick,” I called as I saw S was not going to give it back anytime soon.
“Sure,” Handsome dad said, “Patrick’s fine. He has two dumpys.” He pointed to another dump truck toy.
Ewwwww. You are calling it a dumpy, to me?
“Patrick, get the dumpy!” Handsome dad called.
Patrick pointed to Spenser, pushing his truck. His non dumpy truck, I guess.
“Patrick, there’s a dumpy here and a dumpy there. You’ve got two dumpys! Go get a dumpy.”
He must have said, “play with your dumpy,” 25 times!!!
Handsome dad was looking so much less handsome. What if I were married to a guy who kept saying dumpy and probably called other things gross names too like during sex and stuff like ”nippies,” or “yum yums” … I don’t know. I guess you can say, to your husband, stop saying that word, but once the damage is done…
By Evie Peck
When I was about 5 months pregnant I went to a friend’s dinner party. We met at a restaurant in Hollywood. I was through the morning sickness and the extreme exhaustion and was excited to go out. I hadn’t bought any maternity clothes yet. I was wearing a lot of my normal dresses and skirts. (Which, post-baby, I discovered were stretched out and no longer wearable, along with my ruined $20 per pair Hanky Panky thongs.)
There were a lot of people at the party I knew, and a few I didn’t. There were also two other pregnant women there. One of the pregnant women was a friend of mine. The other was a new face – Paula.
“When are you due?” Paula asked. Her husband, Dunn, was massaging her shoulders; one of the few things I felt like I might be missing by not having a partner.
“Us too!” Paula said, looking lovingly at Dunn.
“We must have been having sex at the same time!” Dunn almost yelled, giddy at the idea.
I smiled and gave a tiny laugh, the mouth closed, exhale through your nose kind. I wasn’t going to get into it… no need to explain my circumstance. Dunn seemed so excited by the idea of two stranger couples, screwing at the same time, getting pregnant, and then meeting at a restaurant five months later… why ruin his fun?
The pregnant ladies all ordered lots of french fries, various burgers, fried calamari, and other filling entrees and we ate them with gusto. We drank water while the others boozed it up.
Paula and Dunn continued to be lovey-dovey throughout the dinner. It made me think about what I was missing being single, I’ll admit.
In my fantasy, my partner would be loving and massaging and all.
I thought back on every guy I’d ever dated and couldn’t really find one who was the right level of affectionate. I thought of a few who were too touchy feely and it creeped me out. (Was it too much to ask to actually like being touched by the man I was dating?) I also remembered dating guys who never touched me. I remember one guy I was with who was so stand-offish I’d actually think loudly please touch me. No one I’d ever dated matched up to my fantasy of what I wanted or expected.
I knew my options were: A. Lower my expectations. B.Keep Looking C.Just have a baby and give up on men/dating. I guess there’s a D option in there, but clearly I went with C.
My life had changed so much already; just the anticipation of having my son had given me such excitement, such happiness, such hope, that even a few pangs of envy didn’t penetrate my demeanor. I ate my fried food, completely satisfied.
“We were all having sex at the same time,” I heard Dunn say again, to another guy at the party, as he pointed at me with one hand and, with the other, was very physical with Paula. Ugh. Enough, Dunn.
I was proud of the choice I had made. I wasn’t ashamed of not having sex to get to this point. I’d been through a lot to get here, but I didn’t feel the need to tell this guy my business.
I started to wish that I had more single pregnant friends. ANY single pregnant friends.
A few minutes later, when Dunn said, for the third time, we were all having sex at the same time, I felt I needed to make things right.
“Actually, I didn’t have sex at all,” I said in my nicest I’m not trying to humiliate you in front of the whole party who are now all listening to us voice. “I was inseminated at a fertility clinic.” Sexxxxy.
“Oh,” Dunn said, not processing my meaning. “Well, still, we were all probably having sex around the same time.”
He really wasn’t getting it. Maybe it’s my responsibility to help normalize unconventional families. Maybe I’m supposed to be the spokeswoman for single moms. Maybe someday, I’ll start a blog or something….
“Actually, Dunn,” I said so nicely, “I’m single. I’m having this baby as a single mom. I was having NO sex at all.” Then I smiled and shrugged, “Sorry.”
Dunn grinned and mumbled stuff like, That’s OK and Oh really? Paula snuggled closer into Dunn’s armpit, grateful she’d gotten pregnant the old fashioned way.
I really wasn’t trying to shame him. I just want people to think about those of us who are making choices and not doing things the way we were told we should do them.
By Evie Peck
When I was 29, I dated a guy named Louis for a few months. I liked him. He was nice and cute and sexy and had a real job (he was a lawyer, not an artist). We saw each other about once or twice a week. He wasn’t my boyfriend; we were just dating.
One day, Louis came down with a terrible cold and I decided to send chicken soup to his work. But there was a $25 minimum delivery so I ended up sending him 2 orders of matzo ball soup, two orders of French fries and a slice of chocolate mousse cake, so I could get to the minimum.
When he called to thank me, he kept saying, “Wow. This is a lot of food. I mean, it’s SO MUCH food.” His thank you was awkward. I felt ashamed that I’d sent him enough French fries for 5 people. The enormous food delivery changed everything, I think, because we broke up on our next date, like this:
Me: So…. What do you think about what’s happening with us (inspired by the unpleasant thank you for the gallon of soup)?
Louis: Yeah, I don’t think this is really working out. Wow, thank you for bringing this up. If you didn’t bring this up, I never would have. I mean, we probably would have gotten married before I would have ever brought this up. Whew, this is a relief.
So…can I count that as a marriage proposal?
Simon and I had been on 2 dates. He was a 35-year-old struggling jazz musician and cute. We met on line.
I got a voice mail from him saying, “I’m sick. Could you bring me soup?”
I barely knew the guy, but I decided I’d bring him soup – I mean, why not; maybe he would be my boyfriend someday. Maybe me saying yes would progress this relationship.
When I called to tell him I would bring his soup, he said, “I also need: cough drops, Kleenex, fruit, juice, and Popsicles.”
I was quiet for a moment. Then I said, “So, you need me to go shopping for you?”
“Huh? Oh and Dayquil,” he said.
He never actually admitted that he was asking me to shop for him and yet, I did. I showed up at his germy place with two bags of groceries, for this guy I’d met twice before.
“Wow, this is great,” he said, rifling through the bag of things he’d ordered me to get and NOT actually ever saying the words thank you.
“Can I….pay you?” he asked, as if he was sure I’d slap his hand and shout your money’s no good here!
His groceries had cost me about $60 and since we’d gone dutch on our 2 dates, it’s not like I owed him. But how the hell could I say Yes, please pay me $60?
“It’s OK,” I told him.
“Wow! Great!” He said, again not really saying thank you. “Here, take some chocolates.” He reached in a drawer and gave me a handful of those Ferrero Rocher chocolate that are sold for cheap in fine drugstores.
“Do you want to watch a movie with me?” He asked (with a stuffy nose so he said “boovie”).
I’d driven about 30 minutes to get to his house, not to mention the travel time and shop time.
“OK,” I said and I sat on his couch that smelled of sick and watched a bit of “Shaun of the Dead,” while he utilized all the booty I had brought him. I wondered if this was all a ploy to get free stuff. I watched the move for about 15 minutes thinking, how soon can I go? To this day, that movie makes me feel dirty.
When he was well, we had a few more dates, but I never got over this whole weird cold-shopping incident. When I ended things with him, he got mad and called me a moron.
While I was trying to get pregnant, I had a date with Ian and I thought I might be pregnant.
“Let’s meet for margaritas,” Ian said. As I’ve mentioned before, I like to let the guy plan; it gives me good insight to his character.
Ian ordered his margarita and I, a geek on a first date who thought she might be pregnant, ordered a virgin.
It took a while for the bartender to truly grasp that I wanted lemon lime mix blended with ice, as I avoided Ian’s eyes.
When I finally looked at Ian, he asked, “You don’t drink?”
“Um, not right now,” I mumbled. I hadn’t really thought this through. I sounded more cryptic than intended; though it was a pretty major conversation for a first date. I should have just said, I’m taking antibiotics. That’s a good one.
I sipped my disgusting margarita mix as we chatted. Even though it was a hot, summer night, my drink was not refreshing. The conversation was.
Ian was really nice and smart. We talked about things that were actually interesting to me. But, after a few minutes, Ian pulled out a huge wad of Kleenex and blew his nose in a very productive way.
I must have given him a look because he said, sweetly, “It’s just a summer cold.”
For the rest of the night, through our conversations about work and art, all I wanted to do was talk about the difference between a cold and a summer old. Did that mean it wasn’t catchy? Did that mean it is actually cured by tequila? What the hell was a summer cold and why was it ok to be on a first date with one?
The nose blowing continued right up to the moment he tried to kiss maybe pregnant me. It was just all too much. I didn’t want to get sick and it was too soon to tell him that I was trying to be a single mom and this might have been my first virgin cocktail with child.
As he kissed me, I tried to keep my mouth closed to minimize the germ contact. He seemed pretty into it. I was completely freaked out and I made an awkward exit.
I wasn’t pregnant at this point, by the way.
A few years later, I crossed paths with Ian again and we met for a cup of coffee together. I brought Spenser. Here’s the crazy part; we never talked about me being a single mom. I don’t know if he thought I was in a relationship or not. Maybe it wasn’t really a date, but whatever it was, I don’t think he had fun. I barely sat with him, because Spenser was running around nonstop and I complained about my drink (that he bought me.) After maybe 15 minutes, he said, “Well, I guess I should let you go.” Which meant he wanted to go.
I recently had the best date of my life and we were both getting over colds. We split a burger and fries and he didn’t even offer to pay. (I’m speaking of my 2-year-old son, of course.)
To read more about Evie’s life as a single mom, visit MomSolo.Com
By Allie Wade
The smell of spring inevitably makes me want to clean. It’s that sweet bloom smell, like jasmine and pink floating through the air that feels cleaner and brighter. I decided to drag my semi-newish area rug into the back yard because my neighbor said the sun kills dust mites. When I brought it back in, I think the sun maybe just cooked a little of the halibut juice that my dog spread around one day when I wasn’t home.
She has this problem, as she was not fed for weeks at a time at her last home – the scavenger in her comes out and all of the garbage cans in our house, even the bathroom, have been ransacked. She got lucky with the freezer back with a quarter inch of halibut juice left over floating around. She spread it all over the house. Along with the remaining contents of my Pho from the night before. She ate every last bean sprout.
So now my house smells like warmed-by-the-sun-halibut-juice and kind of like farts, actually. My plan totally backfired. Baylor woke up puking quesadillas from last night at 4am and I don’t think that smell helped either.
Spring is also a time of pre-wedding events and baby showers. How is it that so many people can be pregnant and engaged all at one time? I had heard this year would come. Bridesmaid veterans had passed on their wisdom. “Oh you only have one wedding to go to this summer? Try nine. Just you wait.” Factor in my weekend master’s program and I don’t have a free weekend until September, like, for reals. And I’m not even counting the three ex-boyfriends I have that are also making their love official this summer. How organized… and how rude that they didn’t invite me.
It makes me think of boxes. Moving boxes, little black boxes, wedding gift boxes, tiny boxes on invites that order your fish or poultry for you beforehand… and hypothetical boxes. I begin to panic thinking about how many of my boxes are unchecked and then the panic turns into this force beyond my control. I start planning my own wedding in my head (eloping, really) and hoard Baylor’s clothes in case I have more babies. I start a yard sale pile and then begin pulling the items out of the pile because I might need them with my some-day-husband in a some-day-house that has storage.
And then while cleaning up Baylor’s puke at 4am and having to put everything in the garbage can outside because of the smell, I remember, I’ve checked a few boxes before anyone else in this boxing match, but my boxes are a little out of order. First comes love, then comes marriage… wait.
One could even describe my boxes as unorganized and disheveled, but checked nonetheless. I have the high school friends, the college friends, the couples friends, the boyfriend, the baby daddy, the kid, the SUV, the diploma and the dog. Check, check, and double check.
Spring cleaning this year includes weird stuff that I can’t resist from the thrift store – it needs to be returned in a donation fashion. It also includes locking my cabinets so my little scavenger dog doesn’t destroy more of my shit. And finally, spring cleaning this year will be about reassessing my obsession with checking boxes, and possibly stacking them in an order that doesn’t completely make me want to beat myself up comparing sizes. ‘Cuz comparing sizes is just never a good idea. With anything. Especially not boxes.
By Melissa Mensavage
I am sure if I had the time to open up any parenting book I would see the ‘monkey see, monkey do’ phase in the two-almost-three-year-old section. That is all Max does these days, sees something someone else is doing and then does it himself.
I know at home when I am sitting with Theo on the floor encouraging him to roll-over or to get up on his hands and knees as if ready to crawl, Max does the same to get my attention. However, when he comes from home from school, screaming ‘No Way Mama!’ in response to me asking him to pick up his toys or to put his cup in the sink, I want to gauge my eyes out.
When did this response ever get into his head? Who thinks this response is acceptable? Why is my sweet boy acting like a spoiled brat?
I know the kid who acts like this, who has this response in their repertoire and I also know the parents too.
So if I do the math, Max and said kid play together quite a bit at school + the monkey see-monkey-do phase + a parent who has a different discipline and respect policy than I do = ugly child of mine.
There is a part of me that just wants to scream at said kid. There is another part of me that wants to scream at said kid’s parent and then there is a part of me that is exhausted from having to correct the behavior and seriously just wants to give up and be like said parent.
How can a parent be so different on the acceptable behavior spectrum? They should be teaching respect to their children, right? Or maybe they are of a generation that respect is optional? I am not sure because as I get older I cannot relate to those who are significantly younger than I (as in 5+ years) and what they think is acceptable.
I am also hearing a lot of, ‘you are my best friend’, or ‘you are not my best friend’. Again, same kid says this. And this time I know for sure it’s the kid’s parent because of my experience with them personally. They are the ones who have 900 Facebook friends, not one close friend consistently, and are always saying to all the other kids’ parents, ‘kid and your kid are besties’. Really? I am told at each teacher-parent conference at this age it’s still parallel play.
So what am I to do?
I wish I could keep Max from being exposed to kids like that nor do I want him to have his feelings hurt because of someone else’s insecurities passed down to their child. But I won’t say anything because I am not sure I am ready to hear what they have to say about my parenting and my sweet boy. (Don’t get me wrong, I know my sweet boy has ‘Satan Days’, as I like to call them. You know the days where Satan has taken over the kid’s body and the only thing you can do is make sure there is liquor in the house for after they go to bed???!!)
I also don’t want to cause any discomfort between me and said parent. Our once close relationship is already strained (long petty immature story that I just don’t have time for) and I am at terms with it being the way it is, cordial, so if I start accusing them of crazy parenting I am sure that’ll just make the times we do see each other at school uncomfortable and that is the last thing I want for either of my boys.
I know I am not the perfect parent, but I do know I am right when I discipline for being rude, inconsiderate, and mean. I know I am right when I teach my child to be fair and a friend to everyone, not to have a select group of friends only. I want my children to have the best childhood possible and if that means dealing with monkey see-monkey do, I just pray this phase passes quickly and painlessly as possible for everyone involved.
I’ve been asking myself this question quite a bit lately: what does it mean to be a mother? What does it mean to be a single mother, and by choice?
And I really haven’t come up with a decent satisfactory answer yet.
I mean I could state the obvious of motherhood – feeding, bathing, educating the young ones I’ve brought into the world – yet this doesn’t make me feel like a mother -more of a caretaker. I suppose I could consider the times sitting on the floor with my two-year-old son teaching him how to do puzzles and then watching him do it all by himself as motherhood. Or the time I spend with my eight-month-old son trying to get him to roll-over. (He is my stubborn one…just like his mama. Oh the irony. Oh the payback. Oh how my mother is doing a happy dance.)
I am pretty sure this feeling of ‘operational parenting’ is what happens when a family goes from one child to two, or anytime the number of children increases. I had no idea what I was getting myself into when I decided to have another child. I surely have no regrets, but had no clue that I would feel so much like a caretaker and not a mother. Is it because I have to keep the household running as well? Is it because I totally forgot what its like to have an infant in the house? Is it because I am still fighting for the ‘me’ time that I had a glimpse of prior to the baby arriving and my son’s independence growing?
Yes. Yes. Yes. Let’s also add to that that I am doing this by myself. I have no husband, or ex-husband (well I do, but thankfully we never had any kids), or boyfriend, or ex-boyfriend (and have a couple of these thankfully no kids here either). I have family that helps out tremendously but they don’t live with me so I can’t just run to the store to grab milk and come back in 15 minutes. That task alone is 45 minutes by the time I get everyone bundled up, loaded into the car, get to the store, get the milk, get back in the car, and unload when we get home. (Is it bad that I’ve thought of texting my 21-year-old niece to do a beer run for me?)
Recently I met up with another SMC, who also happens to be a family from the same donor. Lots of thoughts and emotions about this new friend, but the one thing I really took away from our visit was how much she embraces being an SMC. I took notes when she talked about her daughter and being a mother. It truly was the most important things in her life. Everything else came second. You could see the joy on their faces.
As I drove home from our meeting I reflected on our short time together and the notes of saying, ‘no thank you’, when I hear ‘nope’ for an answer, serving the same food to the kids as I eat -no more making kid-focused meals. And most of all, have fun with them. One of my biggest struggles is when I am on ‘borrowed’ time (you know when the kid is LONG overdue for a nap) and I find that I am getting angry with them. Or it’s okay that my living room floor is buried under every single toy we own and I’ll probably see it for 15 minutes this weekend when I pick up during naptime. The dishes and laundry can wait until they go to bed.
But I need to sit on the floor – at their level – and just be in their world each and every day, having fun and smiling together. Maybe that is what motherhood means, really.
By Barbara Matousek
As we crossed the bridge in to town this morning the sun from the southwest had already risen and the sky was that crisp, mystical blue that always comes just before the coldest temperatures of our Minnesota winters. To the southeast a jet heading north left a long white trail behind it, and the angle made it look more like a rocket heading to escape the earth’s atmosphere than a commercial airline flight.
January has almost always involved a little post-holiday letdown mixed with cabin fever and a struggle to return to the routines of real life. But it’s also always held the promise of a new year, a clean slate, a big thaw some time in the future.
Much of January so far has been spent in low light in our pajamas. Hibernating.
And I have been nothing short of a grumpy mama bear who just wants her children to stop whining and do as they’re told and lay still and be quiet and give her some peace. Unfortunately once the baby bears know mama will react when they roll around on top of each other or pull at her fur, they make a game of doing it over and over and over again. And if a mama bear growls when her babies misbehave but she only growls and never follows through with the things she has threatened to do, the babies stop listening and think it’s just another fun game.
Parenting constantly challenges me to relax and be flexible and patient and accept that I have to let go of control on some things but be firm with other things. I never knew how much I liked to be in charge until suddenly I wasn’t. The things we learn about ourselves from our children.
Mama Bear needs to do three things if we’re going to survive the rest of the hibernation season: 1) get some mama bear alone time, and 2) follow through with being a little more firm with those baby bears, and 3) soak up that sunshine, even if it’s 10 below outside.
They say parenting is the hardest job you’ll ever love, but to be honest, when it’s this hard, I don’t love it.
By Wendy Rhein
Mom? Will you make that grape cake for me? The one with the orange zest glaze?
I swear, I almost welled up with tears at the very sound of these words coming from my 7-year-old. The very fact that he knows what zest is, or that a grape cake does not mean a bright purple Kool-Aid inspired out of the box cardboard flop topped with a tub of lard concoction, well, it was enough to send me sprinting into my tiny kitchen to start the baking.
In these modern times it is hard to get kids to eat real food. The temptations of fast food, sugared cereals, instant everything, is all around them. Encouraging them to seek out real foods for snacks and for meals is an ongoing project of mine and after several years I see the kinds of results that remind me that I’m winning the battle with McDonalds after all.
And never mind the temptations for kids, how about the temptations for us as working parents? Easy. Fast. Made by someone else. Cheap. Did I mention fast? How many nights have we all rushed in the door at 6:02 to nearly frantic hungry kids who have to be at a choir rehearsal at 7? Or have a soccer game at 7:30 and need to have enough power food to get through the third quarter? We’re already exhausted, but now we have to cook too? The McDonald brothers made it possible for us to have an out, a solution that will fill up their bellies and no one even has to get out of the car!
I have this mental image of Ronald McDonald, Colonial Sanders, that scary anthropomorphic Burger King guy and a Jack in the Box all sitting in a doomsday like bomb shelter, controlling the health and industrial food complex from some far off land. They sit around a dark, dank room, chain smoke hanging in the air like special sauce, planning the next 1000 calorie sandwich that we are all certain to eat. These are my bad guys, the ones I’m really scared of. With diabetes sweeping through middle schools, hypertension and heart disease tackling more and more of us every day, making smarter food choices for my family is one of the best, most core ways to say I love you, I cherish you, I want you to live the best life you can. Yes, it takes a lot more planning than organizing the take out menus in alphabetical order in a drawer (ahem, don’t mock). Yes, it takes prepping foods the night before in some cases, and power cooking on weekends to have go-to items ready for those crazy long days. But when I see my kids race to a bowl of tangerines instead of asking for cookies, or they chomp through a pound of sesame oil sautéed green beans at dinner, I sit back and know that all the effort is worth it.
And that grape cake?
It is really tasty. Try it with a glass of sweeter white wine and you’ll think you’ve done something decadent, instead of just making a cake your kid asked for.
Grape Cake and Orange Zest Glaze
(adapted from Epicurious)
2/3 cup sugar
4T butter, melted and at room temperature
1/4 cup olive oil
1/3 cup reduced fat milk
1 1/2 cup flour
3/4t baking powder
zest of one orange
1 1/4 cup purple grapes
juice of the zested orange
2 cups powdered sugar
Preheat oven to 350F. Butter and lightly flour a springform pan. Set it aside. In a mixing bowl set with a whisk attachment, beat the eggs and sugar until thick and lemon-colored, 2-3 minutes. Add the butter, oil, milk, and vanilla and mix until blended together. Sift the flour, pinch of salt, and the baking powder in a bowl and add the zest. Toss to coat the zest. Spoon the flour into the wet ingredients and stir with the spoon until all the flour is blended in, make sure to scrape the sides of the bowl down. Now leave it alone for about 10 minutes.
Slice the grapes in half lengthwise. Stir in about ¾ of them into the cake batter and then pour the batter into the prepared pan. Bake the cake in the center of the oven for about 15 minutes, open the door, and add the rest of the grapes on top of the cake. Continue to bake the cake until the top is deep gold and firm to the touch. The total baking time will be 50 – 55 minutes.
Let the cake cool in the pan for about 10 minutes. After that, run a knife along the sides of the pan and release the springform. Top with the glaze (with a fork mix the juice of the zested orange with the enough powdered sugar to make a milky looking glaze.) and serve at room temperature.