Make ‘Em Laugh, Make ‘Em Laugh

This week’s Spin Cycle is “comedy.”

And I’m drawing a huge blank.

I used to write quite a bit about about my family and the funny things my kids said (even when they’re adults, kids can be funny) until it got to the point where I decided it would be better if I dropped the personal stuff.  This blog was evolving into a full-blown food blog, anyway, especially with the change in our diet, but sometimes I miss having a personal blog.  (No, don’t even suggest I start one, or Beloved may very well hunt you down and strangle you.)  I rather enjoyed posting the “sagas” over the last two weeks; it was like visiting an old friend you hadn’t seen for awhile.  It made me want to write more personal posts more often.

So I will.  After all, I have a life beyond my kitchen.  Believe it or not.

At any rate, all of my kids have a wicked sense of humor.  Oldest Son’s is razor sharp, a gift from his biological father.  Darling Daughter’s is more like mine; she often slays us with her droll and often hysterical observations of life.  The Young One has a very quirky sense of humor, much like his father.  Get the three of them together and, when they’re not being snippy with each other (as siblings are wont to be), and it’s like living through Amateur Night at a comedy club.

I’ve documented some of the truly funny thing’s they’ve said over the last 4 1/2 years (yeah, I’m ancient in blogger terms), and decided to rerun some of my favorites.

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Excerpt of a conversation between Oldest Son and myself:

Oldest Son:  So, what are y’all doing today?

Me:  Not much.  We may watch a movie later.

Oldest Son:  Oh, yeah?  What movie?

Me:  I dunno.  Beloved said something about Paint Your Wagon.

Oldest SonPaint Your Wagon?  Never heard of it.

Me:  It’s a musical.  From the 60s.

Oldest Son:  Anyone in it I’ve heard of?

Me:  Yeah; Lee Marvin and Clint Eastwood.

(Silence)

Oldest Son:  A musical.

Me:  Yeah.

Oldest Son:  With Clint Eastwood.

Me:  Yup.

(More silence)

Oldest Son:  With singing and dancing.

Me:  Well, it’s been awhile since I’ve watched it, so I can’t say for sure that Clint is dancing, but he does sing.

(Yet more silence)

Oldest Son (scowling and squinting):  So, you wanna ask yourself:  Can you hit “high C”?  Well, can you…Punk?

Yes, it took me awhile to compose myself, too.

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Excerpt of an instant message conversation between Darling Daughter and myself***:

Me: Hey – did you know [Name Redacted] has a baby girl now?

Darling Daughter: He does?!!?

Darling Daughter: Oh, that’s exciting!

Me: yup, born sometime last year.  And you will never guess what they named her.

Darling Daughter: What?

Me: You’re gonna hurl…

Darling Daughter: Bella!?!

Me: YES

Darling Daughter: *EXORCIST VOMIT EVERYWHERE*

Darling Daughter: WTFFFFFFFFFFFFFFFFFFF

Darling Daughter: In the next couple of years there are going to be 2 billion baby Bellas

Darling Daughter: That’s so disturbing!

Me: ROFL – yes it is

Darling Daughter: I’m gonna name my baby “Illiterate”

Darling Daughter: We’ll call her “Illi!”

At which point I became incapable of speech, I was laughing so hard.

***It should be noted here that [Name Redacted] did NOT name his daughter after the character from Twilight, although I did not know that at the time (sorry about that, [Name Redacted]; I should have known better).  However, Darling Daughter was quite correct:  Jacob has been the most popular name for baby boys for the last 10 years, and Isabella has been in the top 10 – it has been one of the top 3 names for baby girls for the last 5 years.  *shakes head*  I guess “Edward” is too dorky, no matter how much you sparkle…

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The Young One has been the most difficult, not because he’s not funny but because he’s said so many funny things.  Here’s one of my favorites from 2010.

A little background information:  our favorite waiter at our favorite restaurant happens to share the same first name as Beloved (imagine that – a waiter named Beloved).  For the purpose of this post, we’ll refer to the waiter as Be.  Now, Be The Waiter loves us – we’re fun, naturally, we love food, of course, and then again – we tip well.  A couple of weekends ago we had an excuse to go to our favorite restaurant two nights in a row, the second night with The Young One and Miss J, who was visiting from Texas.

There were all sorts of indulgences that night, in the way of an upside-down banana rum cake that I shared with Miss J, and just a smidgen too much Hendricks gin for Beloved, who became quite, er, jolly.

How jolly you ask?  Well, when the dinner was over and the check paid, Be The Waiter came up to me and gave me a big hug and kiss on the cheek, like he usually does.  This night, Beloved felt he should get a hug and a kiss instead of a handshake and said so.  Be The Waiter may have been a tiny bit startled, but not being one to offend a customer that consistently tips 20%, gave Beloved a warm hug and peck on the cheek (and, if I might add, probably enjoyed it, if you get my drift.  Nudge, nudge, say no more…).

I drove us home, teasing Beloved about being amorous with the wait staff at the restaurant.  The kids were in the back seat, rolling their eyes at us as usual, so Beloved turned around and asked, “I didn’t embarrass y’all, did I?”  (Are you kidding?  He was banking on it.)

“What?  Never!” exclaimed The Young One.  “We’re always up for a little Be on Be action.”

At which point I nearly ran us off the road from laughing so hard.

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For more humorous posts, head on over to Second Blooming, one of the best – and most amusing – Mommy Blogs out there.

Eat Like a Dinosaur – a Review and a Giveaway

A few weeks ago, I received an email from Matt and Stacy of PaleoParents.com saying they’d send me a copy of their new cookbook for kids, Eat Like A Dinosaur, if I’d be so kind as to review it.

I said, “I’d love to!”  So there – I got a free copy of the book in exchange for a review.  It’s not as if I have to give it a good one, right?

Well, that’s not going to happen, because overall the book is excellent.

Matt and Stacy are parents to three small boys.  They were both overweight and their two older sons suffered from a myriad of health and behavior problems – asthma, eczema, ADHD, self-control issues and both were in the upper range for weight while being in the normal range for height, putting them at danger of suffering from the same weight problems as their parents.  About the time their youngest son was born, they decided to treat these issues with diet, and adopted a paleo lifestyle.

Matt and Stacy lost 200 pounds between the two of them, and the problems their sons were dealing with disappeared – some, like the behavior problems, almost immediately and some, like the eczema, over a period of weeks.  Both boys’ weight also normalized.  Their youngest son, who has never consumed any grains, legumes or dairy, has “by a noticeable degree, been [their] most trouble-free, happy baby.”  Unlike his brothers, he’s rarely sick, experiencing one fever in the first 18 months of his life and no hospitalizations, when his oldest brother had been hospitalized twice as a baby.

Yes, they credit his diet, and I tend to agree with them.

The opening section of the book tells this story in much greater detail, of course, along with the challenges they faced switching their older boys to a diet devoid of Goldfish crackers, peanut butter sandwiches and Kraft mac n’ cheese.  This is followed by a section of kitchen tools you might find useful when cooking their recipes, along with ingredients not generally found in the average kitchen – and that’s the source of my first issue with the book (albeit a mild one).  The recipes often rely quite heavily on often hard-to-find and/or expensive ingredients or equipment, such as a coconut cream concentrate, coconut aminos and raw macadamia nuts (something that falls into both categories).  For those of us that are already on board with this diet or a similar one, most, if not all, of these things are in our kitchens, but for a parent seeking an alternative to the Standard American Diet for their children or those on a strapped budget, the recommendation you own an ice cream maker as well as a stand mixer with a meat grinder attachment could be intimidating.

The next section is a story, complete with colorful illustrations, directed at the kids for whom the book is intended.  Told from the perspective of the oldest son, Cole, it explains in an entertaining and very understandable manner why the family eats the way they do, how the boys reacted to it, and how their new diet has made everyone feel better.  For an older child, the concept of eating like a dinosaur might be stretching it (dinosaurs don’t eat cookies, even if they might eat the ingredients used to make them), but young children will most likely embrace the idea – it was a stroke of brilliance on the part of Matt and Stacy.

The center, and largest, section is the – ahem – meat of the book:  the recipes.  And there are a LOT of them, beginning with Main Dishes (beef, pork, poultry, eggs and seafood), and Side Dishes (mostly vegetables and starches, with one egg, one fruit and a recipe for meat stock). Dips and Sauces are next, which is really smart – if their kids are anything like The G Man, they will eat both meats and vegetables much more readily if they have something to dip them in. Snacks, then Special Treats, are last, which brings me to my only other issue with the book – the Snacks and Special Treats sections are almost as large as the other three sections combined. While the Side Dishes contain only nine vegetable recipes, the Treats section alone contains 28 recipes – the next largest section, Main Dishes, contains only 26.

I understand the reasons behind this, I really do – it’s hard for kids of any age to be denied the yummy treats their friends and peers seem to endlessly indulge in, but it’s especially difficult for small children who generally couldn’t care less about the healthful properties of the food they are eating; all they care about is how something tastes.  And to give Matt and Stacy credit, they incorporate as many healthful ingredients – fresh fruit, avocados, even zucchini – into these recipes as they can, but many still contain plenty of sweeteners in the form of dates, honey, maple syrup, coconut sugar and evaporated cane juice; some recipes use more than one kind.  They also rely very heavily on almond flour, almond butter and almond milk, as well as other nuts, for these treats, so if your child suffers from a tree nut allergy, the snacks and treats recipes you can make become limited.

There are no real surprises as far as the recipes go, but that is a good thing – children generally don’t like surprises when it comes to their food.  The purpose of the cookbook is to introduce kids to a way of eating that is far more healthful than the Standard American Diet, and Eat Like A Dinosaur succeeds spectacularly in this endeavor.  Understanding that children are far more likely to eat a wide range of foods if they are involved in the preparation, each recipe comes with steps that are safe and easy for kids to perform.  Many of the recipes are also given fun names – Roast Pork with Squish Squashy Apples, Fish in a Boat, Rat on a Stick, Mock-A-Mole and Bunny’s Soup are just a few.  Nor are any of the recipes particularly lengthy or complicated, an important consideration for busy parents.

Do the recipes taste good?  The Rat on a Stick (well, our version was just “Rat” because Meema was out of skewers) and Maple Butternut Squash Purée do – The G Man ate both quite enthusiastically.  This surprised me, because the recipe for Rat on a Stick called for two tablespoons of red Thai curry paste, and I worried it would be too spicy for the little guy’s palate, but he wolfed it down – after dipping each bite in the squash purée.  I have no reason to believe that the rest of the dishes aren’t every bit as delicious.  Hey, I’m more than a little impressed that they can get their boys to eat salmon – I can’t get The Young One, who is 17, to touch it.

The last section of the book is full of helpful information – how to pack a paleo lunch for your child, how to shop a farmer’s market and plan the week’s meals around the seasonal ingredients you find, even how to shop at yard sales and thrift stores for those kitchen gadgets that might otherwise be out of your reach financially – and how to do each of these things while herding 3 small boys around (again, I’m nothing but impressed).  There is also a chart outlining which recipes contain ingredients that are common allergens – fish, shellfish, eggs and nuts.  Of course, there are no recipes with grains, dairy, legumes or industrial seed oils.

So, do I recommend Eat Like A Dinosaur?  I do!  I like it so much that I am giving not one, but two, away.  In the interest of transparency, I was not given the additional copies for this giveaway – I’ve purchased them myself.  Yup, I’m that impressed with it.

To win a copy of Eat Like A Dinosaur, simply leave me a comment stating why you’d like it.  One entry per person, so leaving more than one comment won’t give you multiple chances to win.  I’ll close the contest Saturday, March 31 2012 at midnight and announce the winner on Tuesday, April 3 2012.

Happy eating like a dinosaur, y’all!

Embarrass Me This

This week’s Spin Cycle is “most embarrassing moments.”

Good gawd, how much time do you have…

I once had a blog buddy tell me that I have self-deprecating humor down to an art.  I’ll accept that – when you’re as prone to gaffs, goofs and faux pas as I am you either learn to laugh at yourself or you attempt to follow up three martinis with a large glass of Guinness and a supreme pizza before you realize your new acquaintance is going to be cleaning the contents of your stomach off of the side of his car for days this isn’t going to end well.

Ahem.

Do I talk about my Greatest Talent – the ability to say exactly the wrong thing at the wrong time to the wrong person in the wrong social setting?  Okay, maybe not; I would like this post to be published, like, today.  Ummmm…the time I attended a party, thrown by an actor and attended exclusively by the same (with the exception of yours truly), where the price of admission was a performance of your talent?  (No, Beloved, I didn’t do THAT…I brought a cake I’d decorated.) (In all fairness to myself, the most talented person at the party was a drag queen.) (I’m sure in more ways than one.)

I really ought to quit while I’m ahead (see: Greatest Talent above).

Oh – how about cooking screw ups?  Ahhhhh.

Well, of course I have them.  I post an average of 3 recipes a week here, but cook 21 meals – you get to see the best.  We (sometimes reluctantly) eat the rest, where they pass from our stomachs and memories (and we’re often grateful for both).  And while it would take me every bit as long to list my cooking disasters as it would for me to recount every stupid thing I’ve ever said, I can give you a couple of the most recent.

A few months ago, we took one of our weekend jaunts to Cincinnati to visit Jolly and The G Man.  Knowing I always cook when we would visit, Jolly requested Fettuccine Alfredo for dinner.  I make a pretty decent Alfredo sauce, so we ran over to the grocery store and grabbed various Italian cheeses, half and half and pasta.  Back at her place I’m grating and slicing and pouring and stirring and boiling and draining and just about to pour a smooth, creamy and luscious sauce over the noodles when I spy the half and half container I’d left sitting on the counter.  And I really and truly read the label, and understand why it was on sale.

Yup – I am the official inventor of the Sweet Hazelnut Alfredo Sauce™.

You can tell everyone you knew me when.

(And Kroger?  Sweetened hazelnut-flavored half and half?  Really??)

But it didn’t end there.

Fast forward to last weekend, and Jolly and The G Man are staying with us while she starts her new job and looks for an apartment or rental house.  I’ve decided to make Eggs Benedict; this is Beloved’s favorite breakfast and Jolly enjoys it too, and since I didn’t get to make them for Be’s birthday, I figured I’d do it for Sunday brunch.

I’m shifting things around in the cabinet where I keep my pots and pans and am about to pull out my trusty, but very large, double boiler when I spy something in the very back I’d forgotten I have – another double boiler.  A smaller double boiler that does not require a vat of simmering water.

“Ooooohhhh,” I say to myself, setting it on the stove.  I melt four ounces of butter in it.  I whisk in 6 egg yolks and 3 tablespoons of water.  I whisk in 2 more ounces of butter, the juice of a lemon, a little Worcestershire sauce, a pinch of salt and a couple of shakes of Tabasco.  Whisk, whisk, whisk, and in no time at all I was looking at a pot of buttery, lemony…

Scrambled eggs.

Yup, it curdled.

And I remembered why I’d shoved this particular double boiler waaaaay back in the back – it’s not pure stainless steel; it must have some aluminum in it.  (For the record: eggs, lemon juice and aluminum don’t play well together.)

About that time, Jolly comes downstairs and sees me staring into a pot of what was supposed to be Hollandaise sauce.

“What’s that?”

“It’s supposed to be Hollandaise sauce, but it’s buttery, lemony scrambled eggs.”

“Oh.” She paused for a moment.  “I bet it would have gone really well with the hazelnut alfredo.”

Kids.  They have looooooooong memories.

Yes, The Young One, There IS a Santa Claus. YES. THERE IS.

Recently my friend Gretchen wrote about the apprehension she experiences when she thinks about having the “there is no Santa” conversation with her young son when the time comes.

She’s completely justified in this.

I originally posted the following in August 2008, and it is extremely fitting for this time of year.  It basically recounts what is probably my biggest parenting fail (although I’m sure if you asked any of the kids, they could reel off an entire list of them).  But even if it wasn’t the worst, it’s one of those memories every parent has that makes them cringe whenever they think about it.

So, just do yourself a favor and think about how you’re going to tell your kids there is no Santa…or take the easy way out and never tell them at all.

(For the record, the child in question has turned out to be a reasonably well-adjusted human being.  Although he will NOT hesitate to tease me mercilessly about this.)

(Oh, and I’ve adjusted their ages for the purposes of keeping this current.)

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Beloved and I have 5 kids between the two of us – their ages are 28, 25, 23, 20 and 17; the oldest and youngest are boys and the middle three are girls.  We’ve been through this, and while I can’t vouch for Beloved, the most traumatic of the “There is no Santa Claus” conversations for me have been the first and last…probably because they were the first and the last.

When Oldest Son was about 8 years old – maybe as young as seven – his father and I told him the truth about Santa Claus.  I don’t really remember why; perhaps he’d heard something from the kids at school, or maybe we’d just decided he was old enough to know the truth.  Telling Oldest Son anything has always produced one of two reactions – grave contemplation, characterized by a slight frown and furrowing of his brow, or complete skepticism, denoted by the downturn of one corner of his mouth and the raising of the opposite eyebrow.  (As a teenager he expanded on that repertoire with a completely blank stare that was surprising in its eloquence:  “Yeah, Mom – just keep yelling at me…it’s all going in one ear and right back out the other…”)  The Santa Claus Revelation produced the Grave Contemplation response, whereupon he immediately retreated to his video games to mull it all over.

Maybe two or three hours passed when he approached his father, and with a completely hopeless and dejected countenance, said, “Dad…the Easter Bunny and the Tooth Fairy too?”  We felt absolutely awful until we found out that he turned right around and – you guessed it – spilled the beans to his 4-year-old sister.

It wasn’t anything, though, compared to that same discussion with his little brother.  Fast forward 12 or so years, and The Young One and I are in my car, driving from Euless, a suburb of Ft. Worth, to downtown Dallas to pick up Oldest Son and bring him back to our place for a couple of days (probably so he could do his laundry).  If I remember correctly, it was early October and the initial “Holiday Season” onslaught of toy commercials was just beginning.  The Young One was 9 years old, and happily chattering away, something he does exceedingly well to this day (both the “happy” and the “chattering”).  Before I knew it, the subject of what he wanted for Christmas came up and somewhere in there the words “I hope Santa Claus brings me” were uttered.

I was a little taken aback – somewhere, somehow, my middle-aged and over-tired brain dredged up an obviously false memory of having laid this subject to rest the year before.  I shot a quick glance at him as we bulleted down I-35 towards the Mix Master, and uneasily said, “Uh…dear?  You know there isn’t really any Santa Claus, don’t you?”

He turned a startled and stricken face to me.  “Huh?  What???”

“Honey, you know Santa Claus is really Mommies and Daddies, right?”

He gave me an incredulous stare for maybe five seconds and then burst into anguished, wracking tears.  I was at a complete loss – never in my wildest dreams had I thought I’d get such a reaction, no matter how wrong I was in my assumption or how disappointed he might be.  It took him a couple of minutes, but he finally calmed down enough for me to say, “Honey – I’m sorry!  I thought you knew!  Haven’t the other kids in school been telling you there isn’t any Santa Claus?” (He was, after all, in the fourth grade.)

“Yes – but I believed YOU!” he cried, and began sobbing uncontrollably again.  “I’ll NEVER be able to trust you ever AGAIN!”

I have to tell you – I’ve had people say some truly horrible and crushing things to me before (*cough*ex-husband*cough*), but nothing has ever made me feel as awful as that did.  I had visions of being dragged, against my will, on Oprah and having Dr. Phil declare me the most insensitive and unfit parent in recorded history while the audience beat me with copies of Dr. Spock’s Baby and Child Care.

Fortunately, Oldest Son and Darling Daughter have a marvelous relationship with The Young One, despite their age differences, and he adores and worships them both.  Once I had Oldest Son in the car, he was able to begin damage control and had The Young One calm enough for Darling Daughter (master of the “Let’s See How We Can Use This To Our Advantage” school of thought) to take over by the time we got home and really work on him (I’m sure it was she who pointed out to him that Parents are far more easily manipulated accessible than Santa Claus could ever be).

I think he even learned to trust me again.  Or at least wrangle an XBox out of me.

 

Please Don’t Feed The Dinosaurs…Or The Kids

Beloved woke me up this morning by mumbling, “Stop feeding Filet Mignon to the dinosaur!  It’s expensive!”

I’d like to say I have no idea what kind of a dream the man was having, but I’m afraid it was all too clear.  It amused me, though, so I related the incident to The Young One while I made his breakfast, and Beloved was stumbling, bleary-eyed, toward the coffee pot (I told him not to bother watching the end of the game last night, and I was right – Texas choked).

“You laugh,” he said (because The Young One was), “but you know good and damn well that if we had a pet dinosaur, your mother would be feeding him grass-fed beef.”

I really do take exception to that – the dog gets CAFO beef, mixed with grass-fed or pastured organ meats.  A dinosaur would be any different?

But it also explains my dilemma about Halloween this year.  I love the holiday, and always have, although my enjoyment of it has diminished somewhat since moving to Ohio (not by choice, believe me).  However, I cannot in good conscience give what I’ve come to view as poison, and I don’t want to be like the neighborhood dentist – every neighborhood has one, and he always hands out toothbrushes.  So, we’ve reluctantly decided not to participate this year, which is sad, but what alternatives do we have?

Because you know if I’ve been instructed not to feed the dinosaur Filet Mignon, it’s certainly not an option for trick-or-treaters.

For more Halloweenie spins, head on over to Sprite’s Keeper.  Don’t bother with the candy, but take her some virgin coconut oil – she’ll love it.