Tuesday, November 24, 2015

How To Talk To Your Kids About Shitty People

The other day, I was chatting with my mom and my almost 11 year old son about current events. The light version because my son is a gentle soul who doesn't really need to hear what I really think of some people. I think this is important because as my son gets older, he becomes more aware of the world. He watches TV. He can read headlines. He has access to the Internet. He is extremely intelligent (top two in his class) and very perceptive. We talked about how people trash talk during elections because they think if they make other people not like the other candidate, they will all like that candidate more. My son more or less confirmed that this is like school in the 5th grade.

My son also told me he doesn't understand that people right now don't like Muslims because one of his best friends is a Muslim and he thinks he's a great guy. So how do I break this down as not to highlight how harsh and ignorant adults can be? (not that he doesn't need to learn that...he does, and he will) I tried to explain that there are bad people in the world and good people in the world. Sometimes when bad people do bad things, they need to make up an excuse for why they did it. Kind of like getting caught taking candy without asking and making up a lie so that it doesn't seem like you were just out for candy, but really might die without it because candy is your only medicine to prevent lack of candy sickness.

Sometimes they use their religion because it's an easy excuse with a lot of power behind it. The Muslim faith doesn't teach hate any more than the Christian faith. That doesn't mean Christians don't sometimes do terrible things and blame it on the bible. They do this every single day. In other parts of the world, Muslims have done the same. These people are not real followers of their faith. They just need an excuse. Usually these people are so lost and afraid in their own life in their part of the world that they desperately need something to belong to, and often that something is bad. Often, that is all there is. It's like growing up in a bad neighborhood and getting involved with crime. Sometimes its the strong people that resist that. The problem here is that this excuse of theirs makes everyone who follows that religion or comes from that region of the world, no matter how many generations back, look bad to people who don't know to look beyond such things. And there are a lot of those people in the world.

Enter scared people. People who have seen bad things perpetrated on TV. Their fear makes them need something to blame it on. Fear is powerful, and fear easily becomes hate if not suppressed or cured. Just like the bad people need an excuse, the people watching need one too. So they say "Well, they did that bad thing because they were BLAHBLAHBLAH (anything different from them) and that means all BLAHBLAHBLAH (anyone different from them) will do the same thing here. When you really break it down and look at it, it's pretty stupid. Do you know who will be the first to point that out to us? Our kids.

Kids are great. When raised to judge people as individuals, they don't know hate. Well, not for people. They hate things like broccoli, early bedtimes, cleaning their rooms, and in my son's case, Justin Beiber. If you put ten toddlers in a room from all different parts of the world, they won't hate one another. They might notice that they look different. More often than not, they think that's neat. People are like art. They come in so many varieties! Kids notice that stuff right away, and they are not shy about pointing it out! But to them, it's like pointing out the colors of leaves. It's just an observation and not at all important. Those kids will play together all day. They will eat together. They will nap together. They will hug one another. Dammit, why can't we be more like our kids? Why are we such slaves to fear?

I have walked many religious paths in my life. I finally found God in my 30's. As a Buddhist. I was finally able to say that I knew God was there and not because anyone told me, but because I felt God. Maybe it was meditations. Maybe it was study. Maybe it was walking a bumpy road. Maybe it was just that I finally broke down that wall that I was never able to break down before. I went to a lot of churches. I read a lot of books. I talked to a lot of people. Faith fascinates me. It always has. People fascinate me. But lately, people also scare me. Not for their religions. Not for their race. They scare me because of their HATE. Their rabid hate. They are so wrapped up in their hate, driven by their fear and hopelessness, that they have blurred the lines. They have sent this wonderful country back decades to where people of certain nationalities and religions live in fear of the hate of their neighbors. That's not ok, and that is not the world I want for my children.

I have tried to raise my son to be kind. I plan to raise my daughter the same way. Kindness cures a lot of ills in this world and if everyone was kind to one person every day, maybe the world would be a little less scary. I was delighted to hear my son speak so powerfully and so full of strength when he spoke of his confusion about people's hate for Muslims. Do you know what? My son knows more Muslims than most of the people who spit their hate at them, and he needs to remember that. His feelings come from knowing. He doesn't take people at face value. He looks deeper. He is the kid who tells me sometimes that he has friends at school that the other kids don't understand. Tears are welling up as I write this because I have so much pride in how strong and beautiful his heart is.

I won't be able to protect him all the time. That has always been one of my biggest hurdles in motherhood. I can't always be there to help him make the right decision. I can't always be there to make sure that people are not being mean to him. I have to trust that if I give him the right tools, that he will make the right decisions and take the best course of action. While I thought I was going to need to do more to explain why some people are so filled with anger and hate, he already understood. More importantly, he is not one of those people. I admire his heart and his soul so much.

My son may never join a faith or find a connection to God. He might never decide to vote the same way I do. He might not like the same cars I do or the same music I do (although so far we are doing well in that category).

But my son understands diversity. He understands kindness. He accepts people for who they are, not what they are. If he keeps that going, what more can I ask?

Parenthood in Five Lessons

Parenthood is the hardest job there ever was, and for which there is no manual. Buy all the baby books you want. Google to your heart's content. Pick up every pamphlet, leaflet, flyer, and paper scrap you find on what to do and how to be a mom...and you will be just as lost as you were the day you found out you were expecting. Everyone will have mountains of advice for you. Things they swore worked for them. Some will insist you do things their way. It's overwhelming. Now, I say parenthood rather than just motherhood because while I know there are things that the dads and spouses and significant others wont know about (childbirth), the rest of this is pretty universal to either parent.

I have two kids. My son is almost 11 years old. My daughter is almost four months old. It's a huge gap and I learned a variety of valuable things in the process. I was able to spend a lot of time with my son as an only child before I brought my daughter to the world. I would be a lying sack of monkey poo if I said that was my intention from the get go, but I think in many ways it has its benefits. I learned by trial and error with my son and waited long enough to have another child that I forgot everything I learned the first time around. Smart, right? But seriously, there are things that stick. And I am laying them out here for you.

Lesson 1.
And I cannot stress this enough. You can buy all the all-natural, dye free, gluten-free, vegan, homeopathic, no GMO shit you want. I did. Your kid will still eat dirt and lick the dog.

Lesson 2.
For the moms. Do not, I repeat, DO NOT expect to be that fit, fabulous mom right away. Your body will have been through the war. You just grew a human being, for goodness sake. YOU GREW A HUMAN! A person just came out of your body! Natural childbirth? Welcome to your new vagina. C-section? How do you like the new belly shelf?
Listen, the fact is, you are a human being. Not a walking Pinterest board. Go easy on yourself. priority number one is your baby. Keep baby healthy and happy. Bond. Love. Smile. Feel. You will never get this time back and if you spend it worrying about how you look and not watching your baby grow, you will hate yourself later. Believe me. Ignore those stupid "What's Your Excuse" posts. I found this online. I think this says everything...

Lesson 3.
Also for the moms. For God's sake, woman. REST. Baby is sleeping? REST. Someone came over to snuggle the baby? REST. Dad has the baby right now? REST. Nothing is better for your body in recovery, and nothing is better for your mind in those first months. Your brain will feel like jello some days. You will forget how to form sentences. Even if its ten minutes, the dishes can wait. Take care of yourself or you are no good to baby. This carries into later months and years. You will get your stride back. You will get the hang of things. And then teething happens. Then the first serious illness happens. When your child needs you, focus on them. As soon as you can though, REST. They need you at your best.

Lesson 4.
Parenthood will be gross. Get over it now.
When my daughter was about 6 weeks old, I was changing her poopy diaper and just as I lifted her legs to wipe her little tush, she farted a projectile poop missile at me. Straight at my chest. Landed on my shirt. She has also pooped on my hand. I have gotten poop on my hand, not noticed, and wiped it in my hair. It's not just that though. There were stretches in the early weeks when my husband was at work a lot and I was home with the baby where I didn't shower for four days at a time. Eventually, deodorant doesn't cut it anymore. When my son was about a year old, he fell asleep in his pack and play and being a believer in the REST concept, I curled up next to him on the couch for a nap. I awoke about an hour later to a smell. I figured well, someone must need a clean diaper! I sat up, turned my head, and HOLY MARY MOTHER OF CHRIST my son had not only taken a massive, smooshy poo...he removed his diaper, removed it's contents, and finger painted the entire pack and play on the inside. And his adorable face looked up and me and smiled so sweetly! So happy to see Mommy! I put him in the tub and threw out the pack and play. Fast forward to toddler and young childhood years, and you will experience floods of vomit. It smells. It goes everywhere. And they are scared and sick. You will need to comfort your kids and clean up the vomit. Simultaneously. And you can't show how you feel to a scared, sick child who thinks Mom can fix it all. How about getting to pick someone else's nose? Those aspirator things only just get the boogers in reach sometimes and you have to grab it with your fingers. Yay vomit! Yay poo! Yay boogers! This is not even mentioning childbirth...

Lesson 5.
Guilt. Mom guilt is real. Dad guilt is real. One day your toddler will be driving you mad. They have dumped their toys everywhere. You are stressed from something that happened at work and as much as you try to leave it at work, you just got an email that set it off again. Your significant other is not at home. You are trying to cook dinner. Now your toddler is going for the power outlet. You say no. They do it again. You say no again. They do it again. The pot on the stove is boiling over. The dog is asking to go out. You can't do it all at one time. They go for the outlet again. You scream at your toddler. Now they are crying. Breathe. Step back. Let yourself calm down. These moments happen. Then, later on after you have made peace with the world again, snuggled your baby close, made sure they know you love them and just don't want them electrocuting themselves, they drift off to sleep. And you sit in silence and torture yourself with guilt. You will feel like the worst person in the world. The worst mom. The worst dad. You might carry it for days. I have some I still carry, and my son is 11. Here is the thing. Someone once told me the best parents are the ones worried they will screw it all up. They are paying attention. To the obvious and the not so obvious. So go easy on yourself. None of us is perfect.

Lesson 6.
Everything will change. Your life will never be the same. This is guaranteed. What you do with that is up to you. You can't make plans on the fly any more. You can't just pick up and go unless you are taking the kids with you, and that means baby bags, kids toys, snacks, bottles, extras of everything, clothes, diapers, wipes, medicines, lotions, etc. Your social life will change. Even if your friends have children already. And that will hurt. And it will also feel warm. Real life is not TV. It's not Facebook. It's real. I rarely leave the house nowadays except to go to work, and I love it. I come home at night during the week to my kids and I cannot wait to see their faces. I can't wait to cook dinner, I can't wait to curl up and watch TV. Am I lazy now or something? No. I just can't be bothered with the world when I have those sweet faces at home who think the world of me and who make my life worth living.

I didn't know who I was or what I wanted from life before I became a mom. I was not sure on many occasions if I even belonged on the planet...and I questioned that a lot. Then I became a mom and it was like someone turned the lights on. For me, it doesn't matter how many people I don't see or shows I miss. It doesn't matter how many projectile poop missiles blast out of my daughter's butt and onto my clothes, I get to curl up with her at night and make her smile and watch her drift off to sleep. It doesn't matter what silly social thing I am not being bored and awkward at because I am at home in my pajamas watching TV with my son and laughing about something no one but us would find hilarious. That to me is life. That is what I am here for. It's all worth it. You won't be prepared, even though you think you are. You will never be prepared. It will be chaos at times.

But there is such joy in that chaos.

Monday, November 16, 2015

A Day In The Life In Mom Town...

So overslept this morning.

I could not seem to get a good night's sleep. EVERYTHING woke me up. The cat scratching in the litter box out in the hall, my husband rolling into me, my own clothing just feeling too hot, etc. Naturally, I could not drag my butt out of bed this morning and hit the snooze button for about 40 minutes. Two separate alarms because one alarm can be shut off by accident but the chances of doing that twice are not as easy. My daughter is a good sleeper, bless her little heart, and she and my husband usually sleep until after I leave at 6:30am.

Thankfully, my almost 11 year old son is pretty great about getting up and getting ready for school. I just give him a shout that it's time and throw his English muffin in the toaster. Me on the other hand, that is a different story. I am tripping over the cats, stumbling into the shower where I realize I forgot to throw laundry in last night and I have no clean underwear. I wash myself up, towel off, and stumble over the cats again into the closet to dig through my drawers for the only pre-pregnancy pair of drawers that I have not burned in anger at my ass being too big to fit in them. I slap some foundation on my face and tell myself I will do the rest of my makeup in the car. Because that always yields great results.

I grab some clothes appropriate for work from the basket of clothes I meant to bring downstairs to the washer last night but didn't because I also have a teething 16 week old baby who refused to be put down. Our washer is four flights down. I had already spent my Sunday cleaning the living room moving furniture, cleaning out the fridge (there were some very furry things in there...) and cooking dinner...all mostly with one hand because teething.

I threw on shoes, grabbed some of yesterday's coffee from the percolator and rushed out the door to drop off my son before going to work. After I had dropped my son off, I happened to look down at my shirt and notice a HUGE spit up stain right on the boob area. Whoops. Mind you, I don't have much in the way of clothes that do not have spit up stains so while some folks can get more than one wear out of their clothes that need to be dry cleaned or washed a specific way, some of us with babes cannot seem to do that.

On my way in to work I happened to notice that my arm pits felt a little stickier than usual. I had showered this morning so I was not sure what the origin of this could be. Then it dawned on me. I forgot to put on deodorant. This is not something I make a habit of doing. When I was a kid in school, before doing such a thing was a daily habit, I had come down with the flu and subsequently spent most of my day in cold sweats. As a result, I was emitting a bit of an odor. It was that day I was introduced to mean upper class-men as they pointed out that I had a bit of a smell coming from my underarms. I believe there were nicknames issued. I tried to block it out. I spent the next week at home getting over a flu from hell and never again forgot to wear deodorant. Until today.

So here I am now at work with my spit up stain and pits that were getting sweatier and sweatier. Every so often I would lift one arm and take a sniff. It was somewhere around 11am when I noticed that I was starting to smell. I grabbed for some handy dandy in the purse baby wipes and wiped down my stink pits. It only worked for a little while before the stank crept back in.

Lunch time came and I dug through my purse looking for change among the gum wrappers, used up chap sticks, receipts, and broken crayons so I could head to McDonalds for their always $1 large black coffees. Bless them for that menu item. No one can compete, and they have a drive thru. I had already had my Ramen Noodle (5 for $1!) lunch for breakfast because of course I forgot to grab anything to eat this morning. Times are tough since just coming off maternity leave, so I don't have money sitting around for luxuries like store bought bagels and breakfast sandwiches. But coffee...that I cannot do without. I do bring my own in the morning, but that only lasts for, well, the morning.

I happened to open up my car's center console in my money quest and found an almost used up travel stick of deodorant. YES! I wiped the applicator all over my underarms, even though it was down to the plastic bottom. No more stink!

I ran back to work and my desk, fielding texts from my mom about picking up my daughter from my husband and my husband about my son's wrestling practice tonight. I sat back down at my desk and looked down at my lap to notice more spit up stains on my pants. Well, at least I match today.

The day is only half over. I am meal planning in my head and mapping out my drive home where I will pick up my kids from my mom, run home to grab sweats for my son, and head to wrestling practice with him. We will head home after that, I will throw a quick meal in the oven so my husband can eat when he gets home and my son can eat before bed. Feed the baby. Make sure my son is showered. Maybe even get that load of laundry in the washer so I don't have to second day these ill fitting undies.

Then settled down to bed with a baby in my arms, set my alarm, and plan to do it all again tomorrow. At least this time I will remember to wear deodorant.


History is my crack...

I joined Ancestry.com today. This is not a sponsored post. This is me describing how I wasted an entire work day chasing leaves.

Ancestry has a 14 day free trial and after hearing a commercial this morning for their Veteran's Day special and being further reminded how much I just don't know about my own roots, I joined. If you know me, you know I love history. Anything old. Anything with a story. Anything that enables my mind to get lost in the thoughts of where people long ago walked. This is only increased even more dramatically and romantically in my head when it's my own heritage.

So I got to work and instead of signing up for my new year's benefits like I was supposed to seeing as open enrollment started today, I started a family tree. See, this is all you need to do. Just put in yourself, your parents, and your grandparents. Then fall down the rabbit hole. For the record, Ancestry.com has no idea I am writing this and hopefully will not get mad at me. I am promoting you!

History has always been my crack. The idea of being in a place where someone was so long ago and imagining them there is to me the most fascinating thing I could be doing. When I get to bring my kids and explain (blabber on and on and on) why that particular place is so interesting, what happened there, and walk around imagining that time and place is even better.

After my son was born in 2004, I did a lot of reading into my heritage and my family. I did some digging, did some writing, and came up with a lot of dead ends. I never knew where my great grandparents were buried, just that it was somewhere probably in Boonton, NJ. So I went one day and wandered around two cemeteries. All day. I never found them. My father recently told me that my grandfather never knew where they were buried either as they passed when he was younger, and it was something that bothered my grandmother a lot.

After my daughter was born this year, I became again agitating with that fever to know more about my family. It's not so much that I want to know so that I know more about me. It's that I want to know more about them. They lived in different times. They wore different clothes and had different jobs. They worried about different things. But at the same time, we have our things that are the same, and I want to find all of those things.

I want to go to the cities and towns where they lived. I want to see the homes they lived in. I want to ride the roads the walked and touch things they touched and feel that presence. I have always felt connected to family who no longer walks this earth. Sometimes I wonder if what I feel is people I never met. Something in me just needs to know more.

I have made lists of the family names that I know. My father put a call in to his cousin who has been a keeper of records and genealogy for his side of the family. I would like to gather some of his knowledge. My family on that side is based in Boonton. Then I have my father's maternal side who is based in Carbondale, PA. But that is just a small part of the puzzle. I am also launching a look into my mother's maternal family. New Hope, PA is my launching point.

So off I go!

Friday, November 6, 2015

What the F*** am I going to make for dinner? (*Part Two - Weekend Edition)

Who likes BEEF?

That third one had nothing to do with the other two. I just really want a pina colada right now.

So it's November in New Jersey and despite the fact that it's been unseasonably warm all week, the weather man assures us that proper holiday weather is just around the corner. Cold weather and blustery, rainy (or *gasp* snowy) weekends call for big pots of stews and creamy soups to warm the body and the soul and while we are at it, feed all four of us with enough leftovers for a few lunches. I look forward to this season of cooking because it means I get to bust out my Super Beefy Stew. It's hearty, it's easy, I would imagine you could find a way to do it in a crock pot, and nothing tastes better with some buttered crusty bread on the side. I make a big pot and sniff it happily until it's done imagining the moment I get to stick it in my face hole and squeal with delight.

So here you go:


What you will need:

  • About two pounds of cubed beef
  • 48 oz box of beef stock or beef broth
  • 1 large yellow onion, peeled and chopped
  • 3 cloves garlic, peeled and chopped
  • 3 good sized potatoes, peeled and chopped
  • Two cans vegetable soup
  • 3 or 4 carrots, peeled and chopped
  • 2 TBS Olive Oil
  • 2 TBS flour
  • 1 cup red wine
  • 2 or 3 bay leaves
  • 1 TBS Italian seasoning
  • 1 TBS onion powder
  • 1 TBS garlic powder
  • Salt and Pepper to taste

In a large stew pot, heat the olive oil
Add garlic and onions, chopped
Cook to translucent
In a separate bowl, sprinkle the flour on beef cubes and mix well
Sprinkle with salt and pepper and onion powder
Add beef cubes and flour to pot and brown.
Once browned, remove beef cubes but leave everything else.
Pour in cup of wine and scrape all that goodness off the bottom of the pot until you have a nice creamy winey' mess of wonderful.
Add your beef back in.
Add vegetable soup. Heat and stir.
Add beef stock. Heat and stir,
Add potatoes and carrots.
Add onion and garlic powder and Italian seasoning
Add bay leaves.
Add salt and pepper.

Now go get yourself a glass of wine, put your feet up, and let this goodness simmer for 2 or three hours. Let that smell fill your home.

Stir occasionally.

Check on it. Ready? Looking good? All that potato starch make it nice and thick?

Yeah baby! Get yourself a bowl.

PPD, you arrogant bastard

Post Partum Depression blows.

I was diagnosed with clinical depression when I was 15, but I recall it's symptoms many years before. It's been a bitch most of my life, but I was pretty good at keeping it under control with medication, meditation, and keeping my health in check. It's a constant battle with a real asshole of a disease, but at 37 years old I had found a way to keep it pretty much under my hat. Then I had my daughter and my whole world flipped upside down. Three little letters have crapped all over my brain. PPD.

I had mild PPD after I had my son. At the time I was not yet on medication for my depression and my doctor quickly prescribed Zoloft to get things under control. I hated the meds because they made me feel sleepy and kind of absent from reality, but it curbed a lot of the other symptoms until my body was able to regulate hormones and get back to normal. I stopped taking the medication a few months later and things were fine, I guess. It was nothing like it is now. Nothing is like this has been. This is a monster.

PPD is not the baby blues, which is really very common for new moms. It's more. It's fear that you will hurt yourself or the baby. It's mind numbing anxiety. It's not sleeping or sleeping way too much. It's a complete loss of appetite or an appetite so fierce you feel you might eat your refrigerator. It's loneliness and dread for no reason. It's insanely intense guilt. Feelings of complete isolation, lack of concentration and focus, and no desire to take care of yourself. It's gross, but while I was on maternity leave I would go days without so much as brushing my teeth. I could not put my baby down and when she slept, I curled right up and slept with her. It was my only real relief. Sleep. It still is.

I feel like I am lost in a blizzard most days. My brain feeling like a television screen of nothing but snowy fuzzy static and white noise. I am racked with anxiety that wakes me from a sound sleep in the middle of the night. Concentration on one task is impossible. My focus is simply gone and getting simple things done seems to require immense effort and often leads to frustration because I simply can't get my head around things. I often feel empty. Just a void of nothing. Even after spending most of my life battling depression I can honestly say I have never felt like this before, and it's both terrifying and incredibly frustrating.

I am most at peace with my kids. Being with my daughter and my son has been a salve for this condition, but that is hardly practical as a working mother and it has made my journey back to work all the more difficult. I can't stand to leave them. I can't stand to do anything without them. My house is a disaster and I can't find the strength to get it together. My doctor increased my present medication up to the maximum allowable dosage and it didn't even make a dent. Since I have already been on several anti-depressant medications in my life, he was hesitant to just prescribe yet another one that might not work in my severely declining condition. He suggested I see a professional to prescribe and modify the medication as needed to get this under control. He told me I need to see a psychiatrist.

Ok, easy enough. I have decent insurance. I will log onto the website, go to the handy-dandy "Find a Physician" page and start my search. Many popped up in my area and I started right away making calls. One after another. Five. Ten. Twenty calls. These doctors were either no longer with the practice listed, no longer taking new patients, or simply not practicing any more at all. This can't be happening. I called my hospital's behavioral health line for assistance thinking that they must be able to get me in with a doctor if not at my hospital, than one of the other four they partner with. No such luck. They informed me that the only facility doing any outpatient psychiatric help was my hospital, but that the staff was so stretched, they had a backlog of appointments into February. It's only November right now. I placed another call to another doctor I found and was told that most of their doctors were taking no new patients and the one that was had a backlog into January.

This can't be happening. I need help and I can't get it. All I could think was as bad as I feel, I know there are people worse off than myself in the same situation. What do we do? Sit in the dark and wait three months with a bottle of bourbon and Patsy Cline records and hope we can keep our shit together? This is not right. The funny thing was, a few weeks prior to all this I had read an article that there was a shortage of mental health professionals right now. I didn't think it could possibly have been THIS bad - but here I was, trying to find a doctor to help me and unable to find one who would even see me. I was struck by all the terrible things I read in the media and how they are always asking WHY WHY WHY? Well, here is a possible reason. People need help and can't get it.

I am still on my search today. Making another batch of phone calls. Thinking I may need to drive a lot further than I had though, but I need to find the way to get through this. I have to get a handle on things for my kids, for my husband, for my job, and for myself. This is no way to live.

No one seems to talk about this until a celebrity has it. Recently several have come out to the media to say they are or they have been battling with PPD after recent births. Most can say they overcame it though and have pictures of them smiling with happy, chubby babies. They also have a butt load of money to seek treatment and probably are not put on waiting lists until February just to get someone to properly diagnose them and prescribe needed medication. The rest of us, well this is where we are. And then we wonder why people fall apart.

In my state of New Jersey, it is now a law that doctor's assess new moms for signs of PPD. This is great and all, but once you find that we do have it...some of us get kicked into the behavioral health bracket of medicine and are left here to pretty much rot. In a nation so overcome with stress and worries, to have people put on a backlog to get help is simply unacceptable. I will update further as I navigate this mess, but I wanted to write about this as soon as possible. I want other moms out there to know you are not crazy, and you are not alone. Get help. If getting help is hard, get LOUD. I plan to be as annoying as humanly possible until someone stands up. We are better than this. We can get through this. We got this.

You are not alone.

Thursday, November 5, 2015

What the F*** am I going to make for dinner? (*Part One)

"What are we doing for dinner?"

There is no more common phrase uttered between my husband and I. Working full time and being full time parents means dinner is not going to be a culinary explosion of taste and texture all the time. We have however become masters of doing a lot with a little while we learn how to live on a budget. Having two kids is not cheap. Living in New Jersey is not cheap (actually, it's ridiculously expensive). Because I know there are lots of other moms and dads out there doing the best they can with what they have and making it work, I wanted to highlight some of the meals we make in our house during the week. Some are really very simple. Almost stupidly simple. But they all taste good, they can all be modified to include what you like, and nothing here is at all complicated.

So here are the questions we ask when we meal plan:

1. Is it going to be filling?
Yes. We all work hard. Be it at work or school (or both, in my case) and the brain needs food as much as the body. I am a skimpy eater with all my other meals so by the time dinner comes, I want to eat every food everywhere.

2. Is it going to be healthy?
Well, we don't exactly keep things like kale in the house, but we do try to represent all the food groups one way or another. We have nights where we fall off the healthy train and have pizza, but we honestly would rather make our pizza anyway. Our one splurge is usually Chinese food.

3. Is it going to be cheap.
YES. I am a rabid couponer so the meals for each week are usually based in what is on sale. We eat a lot of chicken.

4. Is it going to taste good?

So where to begin???

Lets do pasta. You will see when I post recipes that clearly I am not on a diet. I hate diets. They fail. Eat to feel good. If pasta makes you feel good, eat that shit. If salad makes you feel good, eat that shit. If tofu makes you feel good, I think you might be an alien, but eat that shit!

Mom's Chunky Pasta

What you need:

  • One box of whatever pasta is on sale

(brand and shape is up to you...we like bowties best)

  • One pound of ground sweet Italian sausage
  • One jar of Garden Vegetable sauce

(brand is up to you..the chunkier, the better)

  • One clove garlic

(unless you are like me...then multiply that with however anti-vampire you choose to be the next day)

  • One yellow onion
  • Two tablespoons Olive Oil
  • One tablespoon Onion Powder
  • One tablespoon Garlic Powder
  • One teaspoon Italian Seasoning
  • One quarter cup shredded Parisian or Romano cheese

(or both)

  • One half cup white wine
  • salt and pepper to taste

In a large pot, heat olive oil.
Add chopped garlic and onion
Cook until translucent
Add ground sausage and brown DON'T DRAIN! (it's fat, but its FLAVOR!)
Add onion powder, garlic powder, and Italian seasoning.
Add wine and simmer for about 10 minutes
Add jar of sauce and stir
Stir in cheese
Let simmer for 10-20 minutes
While simmering, salt and pepper to taste

Cook pasta as instructed or preferred.

Stir cooked pasta into chunky sauce

Serve with buttered Italian bread and shredded cheese.


They call me the working mom...

I am a mom. I am a working mom. I have a ten year old son and I just had a daughter. I have now had a baby and had to go back to work twice. The first time, almost 11 years ago, I went back to work after my six weeks of allotted maternity leave for exactly one hour, cried a lot, and promptly went into my boss's office and quit. Do you know why? Because it sucks. Going back to work after having a baby is Hell.

Well, it's hell for me. And not for the reasons that you would think. I didn't have the quitting option this time though, so here I am. Being home for 12 weeks this time around was amazing. I felt like I got crucial bonding time with my daughter without having to sprint back to work before my doctor had even cleared me for the postpartum getting it on like last time around. It surely didn't feel like enough, but it was better than what a lot of working moms get and for that I am thankful. I am gone about 11 hours a day when you take my commute into account...sometimes more if traffic is not good that day. I leave at 6:30 in the morning. I get home about 5:30 at night. I get to squeeze in as much time as I can with my kids and my husband before I pass out from exhaustion. It's rough on the body and the mind, but this is adulthood!

I had a C-section which here in New Jersey entitles me to 8 weeks on disability pay through the state. You can then add to that another 6 weeks (if your job allows) for "bonding" through the Family Leave Act. (FLA...not to be confused with FMLA) This pays out at about 63% of your salary with a maximum of $500 per week. It stinks, but it's better than the big fat nothing that a lot of other moms get for maternity leave. I was able to take 12 weeks of leave thanks to The Family Medical Leave Act (there is that FMLA) which protects my job for 12 weeks, but does not pay me. If you are confused by now, you should be. In order to get paid for maternity leave in New Jersey, you have three sets of paperwork for three different things to fill out. FMLA to protect your job, Disability to pay you for the first 6-8 weeks, and the FLA for the next six weeks. You fill out FMLA first. After you are officially not working and can be considered "disabled", you are allowed to submit your disability paperwork. After that stops paying, you then submit your FLA.

I got paid 3 weeks before I returned to work. I am still catching up on bills.

The United States' idea of maternity leave blows. I mean BLOWS. I am fortunate to belong to an incredible moms group that bonded during pregnancy from a preggo website because we were all due about the same month. This enabled me to "meet" women from other states and countries and continents who had different ways of doing everything in the mom'hood journey. It also showed me just how much our prenatal care is pretty great, but our maternity leave straight up freaking sucks. While some of my fellow forum moms are still home enjoying baby time, USA moms have almost all gone back to the grind now. I am fortunate to live in one of the two states that actually pays out some sort of maternity leave. There is not much that New Jersey does right these days, but we are at least ahead in the race in that department. The race itself however is being run in molasses wearing flippers. Google worldwide maternity leave and see just how sadly we rank. It's pathetic.

There is a huge emphasis on prenatal care in this country. Don't do this, don't do that, make sure you do this, make sure you do that. Go to the doctor! Eat right! Take vitamins! Don't lift that! Are you resting enough? As soon as you have the baby though, it's all out the window. "Get back to work, lady!" This is even more complicated for moms who are breast feeding which I am not. I will talk more about that another time. We are rushed back to normal life. Booted from the hospital in record time. Sent home to figure things out on our own. It's quite intimidating. We all find our groove and make it work, but it feels like those guiding hands in pregnancy kind of dump us on our ass as soon as we produce the baby from our bodies.

So being home for 12 weeks was wonderful. You start to feel isolated though. I had family come see me. I had a couple friends come by once or twice. For the most part though, you are on your own. This is not like the movies. There were no care packages, meal trains, or people willing to do your dishes and laundry. My husband was at work all day so it was me and lil punkin all day. I loved every single solitary second of it. I loved everything. The cuddles, the naps, the snuggles, the massive dumps, the crying, the cooing, the feedings, the everything. It is isolating though and for someone with Post Partum Depression, that only gets worse. So there was at least some small part of me that was looking forward to the normality and adult interaction that comes from getting up and going to work like a grown up every day. I would know what day it is, I would have a schedule, I would probably sleep better. I would not be able to pick up my ten year old son from the bus though. I would not be able to hang out with my baby all day though. I would not be with my kids and I had grown very used to that over those 12 weeks and that change over back to being at work is a lot on the mind.

Then there is daycare. I read recently that New Jersey leads the nation in the rising cost of daycare. We got quotes from a lot of facilities and private folks. The average price was $1200-$1400 a month. That is a mortgage payment. That is rent. I don't know how anyone can afford that. People apparently do, because there is a daycare center in every town around here and some have several. I was appalled that people doing this out of their homes (without the insurance that the bigger facilities have) were offering themselves at the same prices. Who are you kidding?! So, my husband now has a job that is mostly afternoons and evenings and my mom takes care of the kids when we are both at work. This is modern living, I suppose. This is what it is to be an adult. This is not what sitcoms in the 80's told me. Except Roseanne. I think that was the only sitcom that told me the truth. Thank you, Roseanne!

At the end of the day though, I would do it all for my family. My husband is my best friend and just as confused by the whole adulthood concept as I am sometimes. We are navigating this world together, trying to figure it all out. My kids are incredible and truly embody the concept that my heart is now split in two and walking around outside my body (well, one half is walking...the other is still squirming). We do the best we can. Sometimes we fuck up. Sometimes we have to figure out that the way we are doing things is not working. It's all trial and error. There is no manual. You just have to trust that the people you surround yourself with will be there to help if you call. That your family is strong. Life is not easy, but it's beautiful.

Well, they call me the working mom...I guess that's what I am.