There is just so much to look forward to…

Recently, videos with audio about “only having little kids for four years” have been making the rounds. As someone who loves the baby/toddler/preschool years, it definitely tugs at my heartstrings.

But.

I realize those years aren’t everyone’s jam. Even if they are- the last two years have definitely been outside anything remotely resembling a typical experience of those years and the last thing anyone needs at this point is more guilt/anxiety piling on. No one should be feeling deficient if they haven’t loved every second of an exceptionally difficult time.

Also- they may only be little for four years, but they’re still ours and there are many years following those four. I wrote the following for submissions late last year, it never went anywhere, but it seems perfect for this moment….

Over a year ago I had a rare day where my eldest had a day off from school, but my youngest still had preschool. We were both excited to have some one on one time and decided coffee and hot cocoa at our favorite coffee place was in order once we dropped off his little sister.

On our way to our table, I saw an acquaintance and stopped to say a quick hello and I introduced my eight year old. This friend had only seen me at the coffee house with my three year old and hadn’t realized I had an older child as well. She was there with her husband enjoying a kid-free breakfast date. It was the third week of December, we chatted for a second about the craziness of the holiday season and the additional challenges posed by the very strange year, then my son and I and I said a quick, “enjoy your breakfast!’ and went to our table.

We got settled, debated the merits of different baked goods, made our decisions, then were quickly absorbed in enjoying our treats. We were also enjoying our conversation. My son was excitedly telling me about a kid’s history book he had finished and we started talking about if we would have liked living in Tudor England. (The lack of coffee in that place and time had me down as a HARD no, in case anyone is wondering…) Inwardly I marveled at how different a coffee outing looks with this child than it did several years ago. My purse only had my wallet, keys, and our masks in it. A variety of little toys to keep him busy, along with a phone with a few favorite episodes in the event of total meltdown, are no longer required. Now I’m with a (not so) small human who is gaining more knowledge by the moment and eager to discuss and share his thoughts.

The baby and toddler years are my time to shine. It has been my favorite phase so far. I would often sideeye parents who talked the golden years of parenting being when you have mid-older elementary children. At the time I could not believe anything could ever replace or compare to having a tiny body snuggled up to you, or a sticky little hand in yours. As time has moved on I’m realizing more and more, it is not a comparison- it is a continuation. We sat there for almost an hour talking about his book, his friends, his plan for the rest of the holiday break. I realized that all of that baby and toddler time had brought us here and rather than feeling wistful like I usually would- it felt like an amazing gift. It was quite the realization over coffee and an amazing scone.

Towards the end of our outing, my friend got up to leave with her husband and stopped by our table. I expected to exchange quick holiday wishes and hopes for a better New Year, but she surprised me. My friend smiled and mentioned she had been feeling a bit wistful with her children all in full time school. In her smile and her eyes I saw a kindred spirit, another mom who had adored the baby and toddler years and was sad they were definitely at an end. I smiled a smile that I’m sure mirrored her own, and was about to say something about how fast it goes or other cliched phrase, feeling that pull towards those days of little ones even as I was truly enjoying and marveling over this outing with my big kid. Before I can say anything else, my friend added,

“I hope you don’t think I was eavesdropping, but I so enjoyed listening to you two talking. It was so much fun to hear your son talk about his book and it makes me realize even though I miss having little ones, there is just so much to look forward to.”

Then we exchanged wishes for a good holiday and Happy New Year, finished our breakfast and headed about our to-do list and errands. I thought about what my friend had said for the rest of the day and about the realizations I had as well. Then things got busy and it drifted to the back of my mind.

This past fall, as my now- four year old started reception; full-time school where we live, I was more and more likely to lament the fact that we are really and truly out of the baby/ tiny kid phase at our house. I think wistfully of chubby arms, gummy smiles, and unsteady steps more than I care to admit. I hadn’t thought about this coffee date and my friend’s comments a half a year ago until the other day and it stopped me in my tracks…

This may be a time of big changes and transitions. It may be the time where I have to say goodbye to the baby and toddler years forever.

But.

There really is just so much to look forward to.

If you also saw a only little for four years video and it made you pause, yes, we only have little ones for four years, but there’s a lot of wonderful to come after that.

A**hole Armadillo and the Flightless B*stard

I currently have a wadded up stuffed pink Snoopy in the cabinet above my refrigerator….

I let Snoopy stretch out a bit for the photo op…

This is not some “the rooster flies at midnight” secret code, nor is it commentary on the beloved Peanuts franchise.

It is the result of lessons learned from A$$hole Armadillo and the Flightless Bastard. Who are they, you ask? I’ll explain in a minute… (Yes, this is a shameless bid for reader engagement, and no, I’m not sorry. )

Fridge Snoopy (hopefully I’ll come up with something less serial killer-esque before I hit post, but for now its the best I have) is our backup Snoopy. Little Ginger imprinted on a pink Snoopy in her collection of stuffed toys about a year and a half ago and decided that was her go-to bedtime stuffed guy. After pink Snoopy suffered a near- decapitation incident we realized we needed backup. I do not posses Doc McStuffins level abilities when it comes to rehabbing injured toys and it was REALLY touch and go for pink Snoopy while he was nearly channeling Anne Boleyn.

Side Note- does anyone else DESPERATELY want a follow-up Doc McStuffins series where Doc is grown-up and a high powered research physician? I want to see Callie the Hippo become a nemesis after not getting due credit for Doc’s accomplishments… Can’t you just see her strolling in saying, “We meet again McStuffins…”

This might just be me and it’s entirely possible that this is a side effect of having Disney+ joining, and becoming a crucial member of your pandemic co-parenting team…

Anyway…. A$$hole Armadillo and The Flightless B*stard….

Big Ginger tended to rotate through a variety of stuffed animals, called his “guys” in his toddler/ preschool years. Then he bonded with a stuffed armadillo and armadillo got upgraded to Armadillo-with-a-capital-A and we moved into life with one specific special stuffed animal. I made sure he was ready for bed every night, triple checked that Armadillo was packed for overnights, kept him clean. I even took Armadillo with me on errands to photograph what he got up to while Big Ginger was at preschool.

What didn’t I do? I didn’t have a backup identical armadillo…. This was a huge problem because that Armadillo was a stone cold asshole.

Armadillo would invariably disappear as we were approaching bedtime. No matter what I did, it would be five minutes to go to powering down for the night, and that asshole would be nowhere to be found. We worked through it, and I became aware of his favorite hiding spots. It got to the point where I could locate him before bedtime and keep tabs on his whereabouts until tuck-in.

However, there was also Armadillo’s other favorite trick – going AWOL in the middle of the night. I’d be woken up by a tear-stained little face (inches from mine) or summoned by a shrieking of “I CAN’T FIND ARMADILLO ANYWHERE!!!! WHERE’D HE GO?!?!?!?!?” Invariably Armadillo would be found in the bottom of the bed, he usually had managed to wrap himself up in a sheet and masquerade as a lump in the comforter… I told you he was an A$$hole….

Finally I decided that I HAD to have a back up armadillo (which is a sentence I never thought I’d write, and honestly hope is never necessary to write again.) My mother and aunt tracked down replacements and had them sent to me in a bid to shore up my armadillo-depleted sanity. I was ready, I had a system, I was going to rotated armadillos to ensure even wear, and…. Big Ginger moved on to another favorite stuffed animal, leaving me with two backup armadillos.

To this day the back up armadillos live in the back of my dresser drawer, both as insurance and reminder of the wonderful lengths (and eBaying) family members will go through when you just cannot face another armadillo hunt (stuffed armadillo- I wouldn’t know where to begin with a real armadillo hunt and NEVER want to find out that information).

With Armadillo out of our life, we moved on to Penguey the penguin. (We tend to opt for pretty on the nose names in this house. I expect if I have grandchildren their names will be, while not super orginal, extremely accurate.) Penguey wound up being a worse escape artist than Armadillo, which I really didn’t think was possible, even thought I have seen all the Toy Story movies, and really should know better.

Penguey did better at not going AWOL in the middle of the night, to his great credit. We were able to return to regularly scheduled middle of the night wake up reasons, including- but not limited to; the dinosaurs on the comforter facing the wrong way and socks falling off feet.

However, Penguey was a massive flight risk (despite being unable to fly) right around bedtime. He mad Armadillo look like a total amateur. At this point I was pregnant with Little Ginger and my penguin detecting abilities were not great. My breaking point was a night that both Father of Gingers and I spent quite a while searching for that stuffed bird, and was at the end of my rope. I may or may not have texted in a fit of frustration ,

“I CANNOT FIND THAT FLIGHTLESS BASTARD ANYWHERE!!!!”

The name stuck….

Fortunately, BG never picked up on it – at least to my knowledge… This could come up years from now.

Good old FB…. I was unable to locate Armadillo for a picture, I told you that guy was a total A-hole

Strangely- I’m STILL waiting to hear from the Mom of the Year award committee… maybe they’re saving me for some sort of lifetime achievement award???

Time has marched on and both A$$hole Armadillo and the Flightless B*stars have moved to way background supporting characters in our life. However, their lessons stay with me.

Just ask Over the Fridge Snoopy.

The Grocery Shopping Cart…

Hello from social distancing day I don’t even know any more…

I was looking across the kitchen this morning, saw the toy shopping cart and started to laugh.

A result of cracking due to the lockdown? That would be an entirely reasonable assumption at this point. It has been a strange and challenging experience for all of us. In this case I was cracking because the grocery cart gave me the perfect metaphor for this scary and bizarre point in time if you throw an elderly Turkish street dog into the metaphor mix.

I really promise I haven’t lost it.

A bit of background…

When Big Ginger had just turned two and was really starting to fully come into his nickname, Ginger Fury, we moved from Germany back to Virginia. We were living temporarily with my parents while we waited for our household goods to arrive and to be able to get into our new house.

A wonderful friend with amazing foresight got Big Ginger the toy grocery cart for his birthday AND held onto it until we got to my parents house. It was wonderful to have a new toy to distract a two year old who was not thrilled about the drastic changes to his life. He loved his “grocery shoppin’ cart” with a fierce passion and would demonstrate that love by careening around the kitchen and family room madly. He looked like the worlds tiniest “Supermarket Sweep” contestant ever. This SNL clip of Melissa McCarthy is an eerily accurate representation of that time in our lives:

Now we get to the Turkish street dog. She had signed on with the organization when I was twenty and I affectionately referred to her as my fur sister. She had always been very sassy and rather set in her ways. In her opinion, her golden years should be spent being pampered, lounging on the dog bed, bossing all of us around, and the occasional constitutional in the yard when it suited her. The “grocery shoppin’ cart” (and the tiny human at the helm) in no way, shape, or form featured in her ideal (or even barely adequate) retirement plan. This created some real problems. She hated that grocery cart with the burning fury of a thousand suns and wasn’t shy about throwing shady looks to let us know it.

We did our best to keep the grocery shoppin’ cart loving camp clear of the hating it camp and were moderately successful. I was the regular recipient of doggy snorts, eyerolls, and dramatic flopping into bed but I thought it was manageable. Then I came down one morning and saw her final word on the situation.

She had pooped.

On the floor.

In a perfect circle around the grocery shoppin cart.

To this day, it remains the most impressive and weirdly eloquent expression of displeasure I have ever seen. There was something slightly awe-inspiring in the attention to detail and commitment to a project.

This lockdown is becoming my “grocery shoppin’ cart.” However, I won’t be choosing that expression of displeasure for several reasons:

  1. I’m very grateful to be safe with my family and we have what we need
  2. I know this is the best choice to keep everyone safe
  3. There are still toilet paper and paper towel shortages

All in all, better not to chance it.

Epilogue:

The grocery cart was moved to a safe location until we were able to move into our house, it continues to be driven at breakneck speeds to this day. My fur sister went on to enjoy her golden years in the manner she expected- free of any annoyance from wheeled toys. She lived to be about eighteen years old and provided unsolicited editorials to the end.

Groceries with Gingers…

So, it’s been a while since I’ve written due to a combination of busyness, working on other writing projects, flu, visitors, and general life with the Gingers. I’m trying to get back in the routine.

A trip to the grocery store with Little Ginger the other day reminded me that shopping with small humans is always a gamble….

Groceries with Gingers is much like Tuesdays with Morrie in that lessons are learned and anecdotes are shared. Unlike “Tuesdays” there’s a much higher chance of mortification and possible unintentional swearing…

When Big Ginger was my Little (and only) Ginger, he had a deep love for the song “Uptown Funk.” We played it nonstop- I can’t hear any version of the phrase “I’m too hot” without feeling immediately compelled to add a “HOT DAMN!” regardless of circumstances.

It can get awkward, but not as awkward as Big. Ginger’s tragic mispronunciation of the word funk at age three. I’m sure you all can see where this is headed… We were at the grocery store, enjoying their music and a much needed break when we came across the group from a local retirement community, also out on their weekly shop. I’m fairly confident they had not listened to Uptown Funk on repeat on the ride over (but this totally reminds me I have a great story for next time). As we were in the aisle with all of these sweet old ladies who were waving to Big Ginger and telling him what a good boy he was to help me with the shopping, he chose that moment to look at me and say,

“Mommy, I don’t like this music! It’s time to sing the F$%# you up song! Let’s sing the F$%# you up song. You start Mommy- F$%#. YOU. UP!”

The kid had the clarity of diction you’d expect from an evening news anchor. There was no pretending he’d said something else, it would have been easier to convince people Walter Cronkite wasn’t really saying, “And that’s the way it is.”

There is never a hole to crawl into when you REALLY need one. So, we did the walk of shame down what was apparently the worlds longest cereal aisle and moved in with our day. We switched to listening to the “Hamilton” soundtrack shortly thereafter and he promptly misheard the lyrics to “Helpless” as “Topless”. It was marginally better and I’m big on celebrating the small wins. A preschooler singing “I’m TOPLESS” earns fewer glares in public – verified by my highly unscientific and embarrassing study.

I had actually managed to successfully repress forget about this until I had Little Ginger at the grocery store last week. A very sweet and proper elderly lady started talking to LG in the checkout line and told her she had pretty hair and she liked her coat. She went on to ask LG if she liked shopping with Mummy. Little Ginger took a deep breath, looked up at this lovely woman making pleasant conversation in the store and said, completely deadpan,

“Did you know that it’s REALLY important that blood stays inside your body?”

It’s nice to know that mortifying grocery story experiences know no national boundary. I smiled weakly at the rather shocked lady in line and mumbled something about learning/science/school. She gave me and (I’m sure she thought) my little potential serial killer plenty of space for the rest of the checkout experience.

I guess there’s no real way to wrap this up beyond saying if anyone from a grocery delivery service is reading this and wants to sponsor me, it would probably be best for everyone.

“NOW we in England!”…

Hi!

So, it’s been a while…way longer than I planned. Apparently moving two gingers across the Atlantic is incredibly time consuming. Who knew? We wound up being in transit from Memorial Day to Labor Day and it has been a journey. Internet is still working it’s way to our house, which has also caused delays as doing this on my phone is tricky*. I have fallen in love with a wonderful little coffee/tea place- they have WiFi, which one reason for the love, the other reason is this:

It’s a serious infatuation. If I could live off Earl Grey and scones I would. I may try.

Because it’s been such a long time, I’m going to try and hit a few highlights. There will be more stories to come but if I try to write everything this post is going to go on forever.

Let’s start with the plane ride over- seems like a logical place. I was doing well until the last day or two before the trip. Father of Gingers went two weeks ahead of us to get started on his job and look for houses. I had been insanely stupid a tad overconfident as I assured everyone of course I could handle this. Anyway, one case of Hand, Foot, and Mouth for Little Ginger and myself in the week before go-time later**, it was time to go. It took two cars, my parents, and some dear friends to get us to the airport. Why, you ask? It’s one woman traveling with two children, isn’t that a bit of overkill?

You wouldn’t be unreasonable to ask this, all I can do is clarify that my airport list was:

  • 5 checked bags
  • 4 carry on bags
  • 3 sets of passports
  • 2 bemused Gingers
  • 1 me
  • We made to Heathrow unscathed. The Gingers rocked the trip, completely redeeming themselves for every sleepless night they’d caused in their entire lives. Passport control was cleared without tears and all passports accounted for, thankfully none of my stress dreams came true (including the one where Kate Middleton is the passport agent and I’m trying to act totally nonchalant). We made our way to baggage claim and it was time to claim our approximately 250lbs of baggage (I wish I was exaggerating for comedic effect, but I’m not). The now very sleepy Gingers rose to the challenge and we got it all loaded on two trolleys and off we went to meet up with FoG in arrivals! I sounded like a deranged motivational speaker as I wore LG in a backpack, pushed a trolley, pulled a suitcase, and helped BG with his trolley. After a lot of,
  • “Okay buddy, you’ve got to push down on the handle to make it go..”

    “We CAN do this!”

    “I know you can’t really see over the trolley, follow my voice and keep going straight!”

    “No no no! Straight!”

    “Sorry!”

    “Oops- sorry again!”

    “Not much further- we just have to get through those doors!”

    We got through customs, probably made a lasting impression on our fellow travelers, and met up with FoG. Then it was time to head to the hotel and get unpacked and organized crash for a few hours then the house hunt began. The house hunting will be a story for another day.

    All in all we were in the hotel/long stay apartments and one assertively quaint Air BnB for the next six weeks. For the record- if an Air BnB has furniture that looks like it belongs on the set of Sherlock, there’s horsehair involved, and you can feel springs in the furniture- you’ve definitely wandered into assertively quaint territory.

    On a final note for this post- apparently the hotel wasn’t in England according to LG. When we left the hotel and headed into the town we were staying in, she’d look at me, nod, and say as authoritatively as a two year old can,

    “NOW we in England!”

    I guess she had a point.

    *UPDATE- we now have Internet. I no longer feel like I’m on my way to being a minor character in the Downton Abbey kitchen (I was going to say Little House on the Praire, but- it’s England) I’m off to put away my butter churn now

    **This is pretty par for the course- remind me to tell you about the stomach bug coming through the house four days before LG signed on with us.

    Circle of Life (ish)

    So this is a totally random post, but I felt like it was time for some more nature-based perspective.

    A couple of years ago, when Little Ginger was really little and Big Ginger was in preschool we were careening through our days, one of us on less sleep than she thought humanly possible, one who slept whenever the mood struck her, and one who had probably taken a solemn vow against sleeping past sunup at birth.  I’ll leave it to you to figure out who was who.

    One day after coming home from the preschool/ drive through mandatory caffeine Starbucks run, we pulled into the parking space.  I immediately told Big Ginger to stay right where he was and NOT get out of the car.  Most people would probably use the tone I used if there was a life-threatening emergency going on outside the car.  I opted to use it for a woodland creature-related crisis.  There was an enormous (I thought in my sleep deprived state) squirrel on our front stoop.  This thing was a monster.  It was the Godzilla of squirrels. It was terrifying.  It was proudly standing up on its hind legs as if to say,

    “That’s right b*%$!, I LIVE HERE NOW!”

    I was getting ready to carefully get out of the car and get a picture of this beast to have for later when I was explaining to Father of Gingers why I’d handed the keys to the house over to a woodland creature. I took another look, and it wasn’t a squirrel, but a groundhog or woodchuck.  It was still concerning as it did not look like it was going to back down and I was busily googling rabies and deciding if this was an emergency that warranted asking FoG to come come.

    Big Ginger then announced he had to go potty in that special tone that preschoolers use when you have minus two minutes to make it to a bathroom or you’re going to be cleaning a car seat, at minimum.  The time for debate was over.  I took a deep breath, told my children Mommy loved them, and got out of the car to face my woodland demons.  I slammed the door and the behemoth turned to look my way.  I took a few steps closer, it took a closer look at me and practically flew under the front stoop.  I should mention that at this point I was getting maybe three (non-consecutive) hours of sleep a night and had elevated the messy bun concept to an art-form that was probably prize winning. (The prize would  be either more coffee or a dark room to sleep in, winner’s choice.)  Any makeup I was wearing had been applied in less than thirty seconds.   In short- I was a vision.

    My ego took a hit at what I perceived as the not-a-squirrel’s judgement on my appearance, but I was just happy to make it in the house and avoid a potty-related disaster. I made a mental note to remember we had a new (most likely very traumatized) neighbor under the front stoop and to keep an eye out.  I also called FoG to announce that I hadn’t given the house away to wildlife, but it’d been close.

    Fast forward a few months later.  I’d seen the not-a-squirrel a few times, but we seemed to have settled into a state of icy detente. I think it knew I  had no problem going full messy bun again, and it respected my dominance.

    Then, FoG was going on his first business trip since Little Ginger had signed on to the organization.  She was still sleeping on a schedule that more closely resembled a newborn than a seven month old and we had recently found out that there were most likely food intolerance/allergy issues at play.  I was off dairy to help her and feeling a little delicate about the whole situation.

    That morning FoG had some appointments and the Gingers and I had errands. I stepped out the front door and was hit by an unholy wall of stink. Something had definitely departed the land of the living. I was devoutly hoping my under the stoop friend hadn’t gotten the last word by dying under said front stoop. I was not equipped for corpse removal. I couldn’t help but think that Disney totally glossed over this aspect of all the Princesses having woodland friends.

    Then I looked out over the parking lot. There was my former nemesis. It was definitely very dead and the source of the unfortunate stench. I shepherded the Gingers out to the car keeping my body between Big Ginger and the deceased as that was going to bring up a lot of questions I didn’t feel equipped to answer with ice cream being a non-option.

    We accomplished our errands without further incident and returned home. I asked FoG if he’d noticed the stench and if there was someone we should call. He had noticed it too. I then said I was going out to do a few more errands and grab some lunch and would look up the number we needed to call. FoG then informed me in a carefully neutral voice that he didn’t think I would need to make the call. I said,

    “Oh, great! One of the neighbors must be on it!”

    He said, not in the way I was thinking and maybe I should take a peek out the front window. I looked and there was an entire flock of vultures gathered around the not-a-squirrel. I was upset for two reasons:

    1. Not-a-squirrel and I may not have had the best interactions, but I felt bad he was becoming a buffet

    2. I am deathly afraid of birds. My bird phobia makes my squirel phobia look completely rational and reasonableAt this point there was nothing to do but respect the impromptu sky burial going on in our parking lot. Nature would run its course, and I still needed to run errands. I got FoG to go out to the car with me in the event that the vultures decided I looked like a good second course. I went and did my errands and picked up my lunch, hoping it would all be over by the time I got back.

    No such luck. More vultures had shown up and there was now a sort of line forming. And there I was with a bag of food. I was practically setting up for a remake of Alfred Hitchcock’s The Birds outside my front door. I gave myself a pep talk and explained to myself that there was no reason to be afraid. I could totally just get out of the car and march myself into the house. I’d just stare down any a-hole bird who dared to even look in my direction.

    Then I called FoG from the car and requested an escort into the house. My need for my lunch not to get cold outweighed my need to overcome my bird phobia. I got inside safely and lived to tell the tale. Have I mentioned FoG is really patient and understanding?

    A few hours later, it was all over and everyone had left the parking lot. It was almost like it had never happened except for a few tufts of fur. Which was both sad and disgusting.

    The whole experience was very Circle of Life but with way less Elton John and more vultures. Unfortunately, there was no parting of the clouds with an accompanying delivery of a profound lesson. Maybe the lesson was I’d be a terrible Disney Princess given my track record with woodland creatures? For now, I’m just going to assume it was a sign to continue my “I’ll stay out of your house, you stay out of mine” pact with nature and leave it at that.

    Sometimes you need a Bison…

    *** A note to anyone stoping by here looking for a Bison recipe or other Bison-related wisdom, this is not that post. I’m sorry.

    So, thirty-nine is here, nothing feels too different. I’m still here and had a nice birthday. The countdown is now seriously on. I have several posts in the works about goal-setting and new challenges to since run the streak is on pause until the plantar fasciitis heals up. I have high hopes these posts will be up no later than my fortieth birthday at the rate I’m currently going. Setting reasonable expectations for myself remains a focus, it’s currently doing battle with the whole procrastination thing, this could get interesting.

    However, the bubonic plague a cold moved through the house this week. It was mild, everyone bore up well and it pretty much passed without incident.

    HAHAHAHAHA

    Little Ginger is more of the “misery loves company” school of thought when it comes to a cold. If she’s congested and having a hard time sleeping- we’re going to know about it and be vigorously invited to participate. This week has involved a lot of time in the rocking chair and a lot of Nose Frida-ing. I’m not going to explain what a Nose Frida is here because those of you who know are cringing and/or giving me the Hunger Games salute in solidarity. Those of you who don’t know what one is, trust me, you’re happier that way and I will not be responsible for ruining your happiness.

    The resulting sleep deprivation means I haven’t been as busy trying to iron wrinkles out of my face with my new jade roller as I hoped. It was a birthday gift from Father of Gingers (I asked for it and was happy to get it in case you’re wondering if he has a death wish) and I want to do a post about it eventually. I’ve had to focus on staying coherent and making small trips out of the house to keep us busy and sane.

    In an attempt to replace sleep with caffeine I was going through my consolation-prize-from-the-Universe tea at an alarming rate.  I made a mental note to grab some other tea at the grocery store. Then I remembered mental notes were useless at this point and wrote it on a list, on my phone, AND emailed myself for good measure. When we got to the store, I left without the tea. I did get it on a return trip the next day (I may or may not have written TEA on my hand). On the second trip I remembered a tea I saw a while back. I was pretty sure it had a picture of a bison on it and that I needed to investigate this further – if for no other reason than to make sure I wasn’t hallucinating. I found it, bought it, and brought it home…

    (That’s one majestic bison there- as a bonus, I just realized clouds are bison too!)

    I have so many questions. What exactly is Morning Thunder? Why Morning Thunder? Was there going to be a stampede in my kitchen? This doesn’t really sound like something you’d brag about and possibly something that necessitates a doctors care (We’ve run all the tests, and we can only conclude it’s Morning Thunder).

    Unless that’s the Bison’s name? Maybe that’s it, although he struck me as more of an Irving.  Honestly, I have even more questions and concerns now.   The box had the magic words on it though, caffeine and energizing. If a stampede of bison was a side effect, I was okay with that. I usually opt for the herbal teas with cute pictures of bears or holiday scenes on the front so I told myself this was growth.

    It was too late in the day to brew up the Morning Thunder by the time I got home. This is because I’ve officially hit the age where I have to think about caffeine consumption after a certain hour.  I’m a rule follower, sure, but not to that degree, I’d never let a tea dictate to me when I drink it. I’ll drink Morning Thunder in the afternoon if I want to- I’m a rebel that way.  So, I stumbled down this morning and started the kettle and it was time to meet the bison… I have a feeling Celestial Seasonings isn’t going to be contacting me to be a spokes person anytime soon…

    (Getting ready to ride the bison- I’ve got several more of these tag lines at the ready…)

    Here I am with my tea in the coffee mug-told you I was a rebel. I drank my mug and then…

    I looked like this! No, not really, it’s tea, not a miracle in a mug that is mislabeled coffee. This was after a long shower and time to blow dry my hair, thanks to Father of Gingers doing the school run.  No tea should have that kind of pressure put on it, majestic bison or not.

    This is the real after the first sip picture.  I’m thrilled to be there honestly.  I got the tea down and while I didn’t feel a need to scale a mountain to touch the bison-shaped clouds, I did feel a little more awake.  I’m happy to report the kitchen remained stampede-free, which is a good thing because I don’t know how I’d explain that to insurance agent.

    All of this to say I still don’t know why it’s called Morning Thunder.  I guess some things are just meant to remain a mystery and sometimes when you see a tea with a random prairie animal on it, you just have to buy it. Especially when you’re sleep deprived.

    #RideTheBison

    An (admittedly petty) open letter to the Universe

    Dear Universe,

    On the whole, you’ve done very well by me. I’m incredibly grateful for all that I have; my health, education, friends, family, Father of Gingers, and of course the Gingers, just to name a few. There have been challenges along the way, of course, but comparatively speaking-nothing too awful.

    The one big issue I would bring up with you is 2016, I don’t think I have to elaborate. At this point I’m just assuming that was some sort of cosmic-level Pinterest fail. I know that it’s taken me a while to remove/repair the debris from an ill-advised Pinterest project more than once. (#DeliverMeFromPinterest, Right?!?!) I can only assume you’re doing the same, but due to scale, the clean-up is taking proportionally long. Keep at it and I’m hoping you’ll have it pulled together by 2020 at the latest. I have faith in you.

    If you have a second, I wanted to bring one tiny mixup that happened several weeks ago to your attention. I’m sure it’s in your records that I am a total, shameless Anglophile. I love England, British shows, (I aspire to be the Dowager countess from Downton Abbey one day) and London is one of my absolute favorite cities. I’ve gotten up early to watch royal weddings and made sticky toffee pudding cupcakes to celebrate said weddings. Does that make me a tad basic? Perhaps… When it comes to this, I am fine if you want to color me basic, just pass the fish and chips, (with mushy peas!) please!

    So, it stung a bit a while back when Father of Gingers told me he might have to go to London the week of Halloween for work. I rallied, though, these things happen. I wasn’t like he was going to London to spite me. It was just where he needed to be and I needed to be here to ride herd on Halloween. Fine. It’s part of being a grownup. I held my chin high and got through discussions revolving around any special shopping requests, itineraries, and musings on spots he might have time to make it to. I focused on getting some of my favorite Harrod’s tea and getting Little Ginger avocado shoes to match her avocado costume. I had this under control. Then, I was trying to get through the grocery store the morning of Halloween and not having a ton of luck convincing little Ginger that the trip would be way more enjoyable for all involved if she would sit in the cart and maybe not protest at top volume. She remained unconvinced. Then I got the following text from FoG:

    This is the point where I was convinced, dear Universe, that my bucket list and the one belonging to FoG got mixed up somehow. I would only have been more convinced if I had run into Jim Harbaugh or George Lucas right there in the produce section of the store. I didn’t, and that’s perfectly okay, because the experience honestly would’ve been wasted on me. I was a little astounded though. I mean, really?!?!?

    Then I was informed that there was now video of the Kate sighting and it would be sent to me when there was WiFi. I took a deep breath, reminded Little Ginger to sit in the cart, and headed for the wine aisle. Seriously, I got what we needed for the rest of the week and we headed home to get prepped for trick or treating. It was fine, and a fun evening. I even managed to say in a slightly crazed completely calm voice, when asked how FOG’s trip was going:

    “Great! He even got to see Kate Middleton today!”

    I just wanted to make you aware of this mixup in the event that item has been crossed off my bucket list in some great cosmic file. If there was a mixup, and that was the one opportunity allotted to our household, I get it. It’s not fair!!!!Arrrgfhhh!!! No hard feelings. However, if there is a need to balance the scales, I certainly wouldn’t say no to meeting Michelle Obama or Jenny Lawson, that would be amazing. I am a little over 365 days from a certain milestone birthday. I don’t know if you have time to read my blog…

    I’d go even more challenging and ask for Julia Child or Eleanor Roosevelt, but I know you’ve got a lot to do. Honestly, just focus on fixing the mess from the Pinterest experiment that was 2016. I’m all good here. Please, the sooner the better.

    Hugs and kisses,

    Katie

    A “Fun” Recipe

    So, there has been a much longer break between posts than I planned on.  I have several in draft form and thought I could get them posted either right before or during our family vacation.  Clearly I had a small break with reality.  Did I mention I was sharing a room with Little Ginger? On the upside, that means there should be several posts this week, and I have added setting realistic expectations to the list of post topics.  For today, I thought I’d share a recipe that I suffered through tried recently, with a few notes and adaptations…

    Toddler (Reality) Bites: An Adapted Recipe

    Are you looking for a healthy, all in one meal for your picky toddler? Look no further! Just follow these twenty easy steps…

    Step One: Realize your toddler has eaten some variation of cheese, chicken nuggets, apples, crackers, and whatever the hell it was that was on the floor for an unseemly number of consecutive days.

    Step Two: Berate yourself moderately. This is seriously affecting your credibility as a “chewy granola mom.”  You did Baby-Led Weaning for eff’s sake. This child was supposed to eat anything and everything.  Still, its better than the time you almost flipped them out of the wrap in a fit of over-zealous baby wearing. So, there’s that.

    Step Three: Fire up Pinterest and consult your Healthy Food/ Toddler Food boards for ideas you’ve been meaning to try. Find yourself being seduced by phrases like:

    “It’s an entire meal in a little handful!”

    “My kids won’t even drink water, and they love this recipe!”

    “My little one asked me to make these instead of a birthday cake!”

    Step Four: Settle on the recipe with the simplest ingredients that looks like it has the slightest prayer of being a success. Add the ingredients to the list app on your phone.

    Step Five: Head to the grocery store with the toddler for whom you are trying to make the bites.  Commit your list to memory while sweet chubby little hands try to snatch your phone out of your hand.  Try to concentrate on what you need to get while the toddler asks to watch “Baby Shark” on your phone by shriek singing increasingly frantic choruses of “doo doo, doo, doo, doo, doo.” Sing “Baby Shark” while trying to remember if eggs (doo, doo, doo, doo, doo, doo) are in the recipe.

    Step Six: Get home, realize you forgot the quinoa, which is an integral part of the recipe.  Add it to the list for a grocery store run later, because if you go back now you’ll run the risk of a car nap, and F. That.  Noise

    Step Seven: Make a plate of apples, cheese, and crackers for the toddler’s lunch.  After a rousing chorus of “No, no, no, NO, NO!” it’s off to nap time!

    Step Eight: While adding wine and/or chocolate to the new grocery list, check Pinterest again.  If you’re going back to the store for quinoa anyway, you should just go ahead and make two different recipes.  Then you can freeze them and always have healthy options at the ready! Right, RIGHT?!?!?

    Step Nine: Go back to the grocery store; get the quinoa and whatever else you’ve deemed necessary

    Step Ten: Throw the quinoa into the Instant Pot, find your favorite Google result for how to cook quinoa in an Instant Pot. Go with that.

    Step Eleven: Leave the quinoa in the Instant Pot to cool. Forget about it overnight.

    Step Twelve: Fight breaking into sobs when you realize you forgot the quinoa. Pick yourself up off the floor and dust yourself off. This recipe is now your Everest. You will not be defeated.

    Step Thirteen:  Do some more Googling. Decide the quinoa is probably still okay to eat, you’re baking it again, and heat kills germs, right?

    Step Fourteen:  Feed the toddler lunch. Tell yourself it’s okay that it is cheese… again.  Tonight, they will be feasting on not one, but two lovingly made recipes that will fulfill all of their nutritional needs and introduce them to new and exciting tastes!

    Step Fifteen: It’s nap time, you are ready to DO. THIS. THING. You assemble all of the ingredients and mix and roll and bake frantically before your toddler wakes back up. At this point you may want to throw up a prayer to Julia Child, Mr. Rogers, Chef Boyardee, and anyone else you think may be helpful

    Step Sixteen: You’ve done it!  Now to let them cool and to decide you can’t wait for dinner.  You and the toddler are going to try these magical bites as an after-nap treat! Contemplate starting your own You Tube channel to teach other moms how to make easy healthy meals.

    Step Seventeen: Watch with glistening eyes as your little cherub, the light of your life, takes a bite from the first recipe, spits it out, and frantically starts scraping their tongue. Take a taste yourself and decide the kid really does have a point.  Put the bites from the first recipe in a freezer bag.  Place in freezer and hope some benign neglect will improve them. If you’re feeling strong, you can offer a bite from the second recipe.  No one will judge you if you just can’t even at this point. Use your best judgement.

    Step Eighteen: Preheat the oven for chicken nuggets.  Try one of the bites from the second recipe yourself. Decide they don’t suck.

    Step Nineteen: Feed the toddler dinner.  You can throw a new veggie or two on their plate if you feel up to it.  Don’t be a hero.

    Step Twenty: After the toddler is in bed, serve yourself some of the wine and/or chocolate you purchased on the earlier grocery run and return to Pinterest for some more ideas.  Don’t forget to eat a few of the toddler bites; they are an entire meal in a tiny handful, after all.

    A little perspective…

    The Muppet Fur jacket

    So, Little Ginger and I went off to story hour at the library… it didn’t go well. Apparently “The Wheels On The Bus,” can be very offensive. Who knew? She has been in peak gremlin mode this week.

    One of the unforeseen benefits of counting down to forty is looking back on earlier adventures in my life and realizing with a decade or more of cushioning, they become pretty hilarious. They also can lend a heaping dose of perspective when needed. I realized this earlier today as I was trying to convince Little Ginger that she does not need to wear her favorite jacket (the one that looks like we skinned a Muppet to clothe our toddler) all the time. Outside, yes, inside, it gets a tad warm. As I was considering strategies, I flashed back to my first adulty job out of college…

    My first after college job was working in the activities and fitness program at a Continuing Care Retirement Center. This could be the point where I launch into a heartfelt retrospective of how working around so many senior citizens gave me a total zest for life and amazing insight on aging. This could be that point, but it isn’t. I’m sure I’ll write that post someday, but right now I want to tell you about nude paintings and golf carts.

    When this story took place, I had steadily worked my way up the ladder and was the manager of the Activities and Fitness program for the community. It was an insane interesting job, perhaps best described by one of the Activity Coordinators. I was filling out some paperwork and had to describe my occupation in a sentence or two; she told me that was easy- just write “crap magnet.” It was tempting.

    One of the hazards of the job, (fueled by the fact I was so young and eager please) was when anyone higher up on the food chain was visited by the good idea fairy I was often going to be collateral damage. It would usually fall to me to make the idea a reality. For this particular episode, the director of the community had decided that we needed a gallery wall off the main entry way of the building because we had so many residents who painted, drew, etc. When she brought this up the first time, I did my best to keep a poker face and give a bland reply while inside I was saying a prayer to the gods of interior decorating that it was a passing fancy. It wasn’t. Ten days later I had all of the boxes for the hanging wires in my office and a strict deadline by which I had to have the paintings up on the wall. Defeated, I proposed we invite all of the resident artists to submit their favorite work for a group show for the first month, then we’d feature individual artists. It was agreed upon and I got to work getting the word out and visiting residents to pick up their artwork and get it ready for display.

    One of my favorite residents who was a regular in my water aerobics class (seriously, it was a weird job, I don’t know how they wrote the descriptions for my replacement) was very excited about this. She agonized for a week over which painting she wanted to display. She kept saying they were all really big. We agreed that I would come out to her house in one of the golf carts and being the previously mentioned Activities Coordinator in case I needed help. The Activities Coordinator was even younger than I was (I was maybe 24) and very conservative. This will be important in a second.

    So, at the appointed time, we hopped in the golf cart (one of the perks of the job- I loved any excuse to drive the golf cart. I think this fact might illustrate the job better than anything else I’ve written so far…) and headed to the resident’s house. She was lovely, as always, and offered us a cup of tea. We chatted for a few minutes and she brought us into the study to show us the two choices of paintings. Let me just take a second to mention that up to now, I had been amassing a mixture of still life, landscapes, and the occasional animal portrait- all done with varying levels of skill. Suddenly, I found myself confronted with two huge paintings of reclining male nudes who looked suspiciously like a younger version of the resident’s husband. It was about as far from what I was expecting as you could possibly get. Not daring to make eye contact with the Activities Coordinator (who was speechless and possibly catatonic) I managed to say in a rather squeaky voice that it was definitely a tough choice. She didn’t need to know I was referring to my choice to not collapse in hysterical laughter as I envisioned explaining this to my bosses when this went up on the wall. After a bit of discussion, we decided on the one in dark blue tones. My reasoning there was hopefully the dark shades of the picture, combined with the lighting in the hallway, would make the subject matter less obvious. We hauled the painting it to the golf cart, and realized it wasn’t going to fit in the main part of the cart. The only solution was for me to sit on my knees and holding the painting in a death grip over the back of the seats while strongly encouraging my art procurement buddy to drive very slowly. I realized, as several residents watched us drive by from their windows, and two wound up behind us on the road, that this was probably not a moment where I was projecting the professional, in control persona I usually strove for. I can confirm that there is really no way to look like you know what you’re doing when you’re hanging onto an enormous painting of a nude blue man (not from the group) out of the back of a golf cart.

    We all survived the trip back to the main building and I somehow got the pictures hung. I would be lying if I said I didn’t enjoy the face the director made when she saw the display. Really though, what could she say? This was all her idea. The display was up for a month and every day I walked out of the office, there was the painting. Right. There. The resident artist was overjoyed and was eager to discuss scheduling a show of all her work. I wondered if I’d get caught if I raided the happy hour cart or if I could plead just cause.

    All of this considered, I’d rather be doing hostage-style negotiations with someone who isn’t three feet tall and clearly thinks I’m about to steal her best Muppet-fur jacket. Or get through a story hour that doesn’t go as planned. I’m not hanging out the back of a golf cart with a nude painting. Perspective.