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More reasons why I am a little high strung

Did I mention that I—like every other person in the world who likes to cook and bake and who gets periodically sucked into food trends—made some sourdough starter a while back? I did, and now I have returned to that place where I don’t buy bread, I just make a couple of loaves every week. That’s all good and well (I enjoy doing it, the family seems to enjoy eating it, and it’s both cheaper and more nutritious than the stuff from the store), plus I’m experimenting with making other stuff (sourdough pizza crust! sourdough garlic knots! sourdough oh look I’m making something else I can’t eat but you guys enjoy it!) and generally feeling JUST LIKE a homesteader of yore. (You know, if said homesteader had a wheat allergy, drove a hybrid, and had a couple of very spoiled lap dogs.)

Anyway. This morning I went to make some dough for this week’s bread and got my beloved KitchenAid going and I turned my back on it to do something else and shortly thereafter the mixer WALKED OFF THE COUNTER AND CRASHED TO THE FLOOR. It unplugged itself and everything. The results, in no particular order: I had a minor heart attack, the floor was both gouged AND cracked (awesome), I panicked that the mixer was broken (it still works but… I think I need to have it looked at), and I swore a lot at the bread dough. THIS IS WHY WE CAN’T HAVE NICE THINGS, STUPID SOURDOUGH.

Also (this is not related but it’s another reason I’m high strung), I am busy trying to get my kid ready for a dorm when most “what to buy” lists aren’t geared towards kids who would not, say, remember their own heads if they weren’t attached. So I came up with a supplemental list for those of us whose kids need a little extra support.

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Nerd Night: Spicy Gingered Carrot Cake

This weekend I Planted All The Things and Baked All The Things and also managed to burn a spectacular burn across my arm in an impossible location while I was rotating the pans in the oven for this cake. I am talented! Now on my left arm, my tattoo is busy scaling/flaking (“SOON I SHALL REVEAL MY TRUE FORM!” I keep screeching at the children, who have long suspected I am actually Cthulhu underneath all the gray hair and under-eye bags), and on my right arm, I have a 2″ long blister. I’m a mess.

I’m such a disaster, I never even told you to go read my latest advice column over at Alpha Mom, which you should really read if you have a high school senior in your house you are thinking about drowning like an unwanted kitten. (Not that I’ve ever had such thoughts. More than once every few minutes.)

ANYWAY. Recently I scored a deal on a metric butt-ton of ginger chips (I think I paid, like, $7ish for 6 bags) and when it arrived I was all, “Whoa. That’s kind of a lot of ginger chips.” Personally, I love all things ginger and will happily eat crystallized ginger like this straight from the bag, but I knew it would be a harder sell to get the kids to eat it. So: Carrot cake! Surely that would work. Yes? Yes!

ginger-carrot-cake (more…)

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Nerd Night: Banana Pudding Bars (and bonus mom-ery)

Nerd Night was on hiatus for a few weeks (Easter and other scheduling issues), and lo, there was much sadness across the land. “Why aren’t you baking us delicious sugary things?” lamented my spawn. It was tragic, truly.

Sometimes I get a wild hair about a certain kind of recipe, and other times a recipe just sort… suggests itself to me. Like, two weeks ago, Nilla Wafers were the Penny Item the day I went grocery shopping, so I ended up with a box of those. And then a week ago, Jello Pudding mixes were B1G1. So I figured I’d make a good ol’ southern banana pudding, but of course both of my children actually don’t like banana pudding because “the texture is weird with pudding and chunks all together,” so I found this recipe for banana pudding bars, instead. If you look at their photo, and then look at mine, you’ll see that mine don’t look anything like theirs, for some reason.


Why? I have no idea. I made the recipe as directed save for three minor changes: 1) I used the entire box of Nilla Wafers (and a little extra butter) for the crust, because what was I going to do with extra Nilla Wafers?, 2) instead of two eggs, I used one egg and one banana (more banana flavor = more betterer), and 3) I added extra white chocolate chips because yum. Also, the recipe says to bake the whole thing for 10-12 minutes (after the crust pre-bake) and that is a DIRTY LYING LIE, because I ended up baking it for… at least 30 minutes. Maybe 35. I think that was just a typo, honestly.

The children report these were “dense and banana-y and delicious.” (They should be, as one pan contains 3+ sticks of butter.) Monkey also added his highest praise of “The texture is very pleasing.”

Now here’s something that has nothing at all to do with baking: (more…)

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It’s all about moderation

I mentioned that I’ve been making bread again, right? The thing about homemade bread is that… then you have a lot of bread lying around. Weird how that works. And my first few batches of homemade sourdough didn’t rise quite as much as I wanted them to, plus they weren’t terribly sour, which means they were excellent for things like toast but not so much for things like sandwiches. You know what else homemade, dense bread like that is great for? Overnight French toast.

If you’ve never made this before, go make this overnight bananas foster French toast immediately. And look, I’m not gonna lie… I made this for my kids for dinner, because my children need more calories shoved down their gullets, but this is not health food. (I made it with homemade wheat bread so I’m okay with it.) Just don’t think about it too hard; it has BANANAS which are HEALTHY.

Me serving my kids French toast for dinner: Questionable parenting. Me trying to help a reader grappling with sensitive teenage identity issues: Hopefully better parenting, but I guess only time will tell. And I feel like balancing some compassion and understanding with carbs has its place, too.

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Blood, sweat, and tears. Mostly blood.

“Hey Mir,” you say, because you think it’s funny by now, “is your bathroom renovation done?”

“Ha!” I reply. “HahahaHAHAHAHAAAAAAAAAAAAAAA!” I howl, and eventually you run in the other direction because I am a little deranged at this point, and frankly, scary.

I know I’ve mentioned before that I find Snapchat useful for staying connected to Chickadee, but there was something immensely satisfying about sending her this snap yesterday, childish though it may have been. (Listen, I was told the drywall guy was coming first thing, then when I inquired around 11 as to what was going on, I was told he’d be coming at 2. I worked out and got into the shower at 1 sharp, and of course my doorbell rang at 1:05. The dogs went ballistic and I answered my door in my robe in the middle of the day like some sort of dilettante.)

So, no, BUT THANKS FOR ASKING, the bathroom isn’t done. We’re closer, though. The tiling is complete (the third time was the charm, it turns out, though the fact that they had to undo/redo some of the tile twice is something I want you to bear in mind if I am murdered any time soon), so we have a floor and a shower and a toilet, and today the painters are coming, which THEORETICALLY means that tomorrow we can actually start using the bathroom again, provided that no one is too bothered by the fact that we don’t yet have a sink. (The vanity was backordered, apparently. Hilarious, because we literally ordered the cheapest possible option and standard everything. Either the whole world is as cheap as we are, or something else is going on. Best not to ponder.)

Bearing in mind that my role in this renovation is limited to shopping—perhaps my favorite sport—and very little actual physical labor, it may be surprising to learn that I am sustaining reno-related injuries, but I’ve always been an over-achiever. (more…)

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This is a week (a week a week a week)

It’s one of those unwritten rules—similar to how bringing an umbrella with you keeps it from raining—that if you have Something Big happening, a million other things will have to happen at the same time, because it is not enough to deal with that ONE thing. Of course.

So: Our production of The Vagina Monologues opens tonight, which means Chickadee and I have been spending long hours at rehearsal, AND Otto has about a dozen extra things going at work, AND Monkey is under the weather AND every committee I am on for school needs something from me right now AND a great job opportunity fell in my lap (but from a Luddite organization which apparently needs a paper resume rather than just looking at my LinkedIn), AND it’s been raining so SOMEONE has been pooping on the floor rather than getting their paws wet (geez, Otto, get it together), AND AND AND AND.

And: I am tired. It’s gonna be a looooong charge through the weekend. (Hopefully a good one, but still.)

Last night was our final dress rehearsal, our first JUST KEEP GOING, THIS IS IT run, and when we do the show at UGA, we perform in the chapel, which is a lovely old building. There are TEENY wings for the chapel stage, and a small bathroom on only one side. If your assignment is to wait in the other wing and you have to pee? TOO BAD. But… last night my darling daughter decided to make a just-before-curtain bathroom run, and we’d just had a few words and I was worried she was mad at me, so I tapped on the door to try to talk to her and she told me to go away. “We’re about to START,” I said, finally, worried she was so pissed off she was going to miss her cue. In fact, she didn’t come out for her first cue, but then I had to go over to the other wing and just trust that she’d emerge in time for the next one. Time passed, and about twenty minutes later I got a text from her, asking where I was. Turns out, the very old door to the very old bathroom is having some issues, and she’d actually been trapped inside (without her phone). She hadn’t wanted to make a lot of noise because we were running the show, so she resorted to quiet tapping until another cast member noticed and was able to free her. She’d spent what I’m sure felt like a very long time in there convinced she was going to miss the whole show and maybe have to live in that crummy bathroom. So. Um. Everything is going to be perfect tonight, I’m sure, because the ridiculous awful thing has already happened! Hooray!!

In the meantime, Monkey and I are still figuring out what he needs when he’s sick, and you can read about that over at Alpha Mom, if you’re so inclined.

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Now there is less of me to yell at

So I did this weird green smoothie cleanse and lost some weight. I never know if writing about that sort of thing is interesting or boring; I mean, it’s interesting to me, I guess? Maybe not to you? I might write about it next week. It was… an adventure. I’m glad I did it for a number of reasons, not the least among them that I appreciate being able to fit into my pants.

Anyway, during the first few days of the cleanse, especially, while I was dealing with caffeine withdrawal and general hopelessness (I’m the best advertisement for this cleanse EVER, clearly), I felt like I wasn’t thinking super clearly. I made a lot of dumb mistakes. More dumb mistakes than usual, that is. And then I sort of came out of that and felt clear! And ALIVE! And ENERGETIC! But I still caught myself sometimes not thinking entirely straight.

Then I wrote this piece for Alpha Mom about teens and disturbing texts, and my intrepid editor and I went back and forth on some issues of guilt by association and bullying-vs-just-generally-being-a-jerk, and I suspect some commenters are going to yell at me very soon. I still stand by what I said, I think, based on the information given to me, but it’s definitely a tricky issue.

And anyone who disagrees with me has to bring me a snack. I think that’s fair.

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How to get your kid into college

I’ve been threatening to do this for months, but I finally wrote a counterpoint piece to all of those “HOW TO MAKE SURE YOUR SCHMOOPYKINS GETS INTO HARVARD” articles. It was surprisingly cathartic.

My distress over various “experts” in this area is threefold:

1) Who says you have to go to an Ivy or other generally-rated-as-one-of-the-very-best sorts of colleges in order to succeed? That’s dumb. If that was true, none of the other colleges would exist, or no one who graduates from them would ever make a living. These pieces are rife with a snobbery about education that I find really distasteful.

2) It always seems to assume a trajectory that begins with laser-focus even before your kid hits high school. Call me crazy, but I think it’s okay to let kids be kids.

3) I don’t remember my parents doing all of this college stuff with me… because they didn’t. I picked the schools I went to. I wrote my applications. I handled it with minimum input from them, because honestly, if a kid can’t get themselves through the process here without mommy and daddy pointing out every step of the way, they’re unlikely to succeed at ANY college, much less a “top” one.

Want to know what needs to be happening through high school for your kid to be on track for the right college? Here you go. I may not be an expert, but I’m a realist—and unlike a lot of folks I know with high school seniors, we haven’t really found this year stressful.

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In case audio is your thing…

… I cannot remember if I have mentioned here or not that I’m going to be in The Vagina Monologues again this year. But in case I hadn’t, before, there ya go. Now I have. This may not mean a thing to you (maybe you live very far away; maybe you are opposed to vaginas for some reason), but this morning I was on a local podcast along with one of our directors to talk about and promote the upcoming show. And you could listen to it, if you wanted to, to hear how much MORE awkward I am in real life (hard to believe, I know).

Bear in mind that I got a phone call late last night asking me if I could step in today, because our other director was going to be unavailable and my schedule is flexible and also I am a sucker. I said sure, because why not? Then we got there this morning and had settled into our chairs and Andrew was about to start recording and Audey was all, “And I want you to do part of your monologue, too.” OH. OKAY. NO SWEAT. I did it, but, uh, surprise! (This is a lovely building the newspaper offices are in. I have very much enjoyed talking about Eve Ensler’s important work. Sure, I’d be happy to start moaning and let you record it.)

You can listen to the podcast here (or download it, if you’re fancy like that). If you’re local, please come to our show! And if you’re not, please consider visiting the V-Day Event Locator to find a local production to attend in February. All productions of The Vagina Monologues are fundraisers for organizations dedicated to preventing violence against women—see a fun show, support a great cause.

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I have poor planning skills

Having children just a year apart in school has its advantages, sometimes—they often do the same activities at the same time, and this year when so many things are broken into a 9th/10th night and an 11th/12th night, we only have to go once—but somehow I forgot about the whole TWO KIDS HEADING TO COLLEGE AT NEARLY THE SAME TIME thing.

It’s not fair, really. I am constantly gauging and assessing Chickadee’s experiences this year to help us make decisions about how to handle things with Monkey. This is (surprise!) resulting in a litany of “But how come HE doesn’t have to—” and “but when I was a junior—” and the occasional “But Chickie didn’t—” and that’s SUPER FUN. I’m really beginning to understand how people with 4 or more children end up with the oldest and the youngest feeling like they were raised by completely different people. Live and learn! Or live and give up! Either way!

Lucky for me, years of raising “different” kids and having my perception of what’s truly important in life challenged for… oh… years on end (NOT THAT I’M BITTER) has left me in an interesting place when it comes to college prep. Specifically: any time I read an article about how to get your kid into the BEST school for the BEST life, I laugh and laugh and laugh. In fact, I think I’m going to be writing up my very own ESSENTIAL COLLEGE PREP TIMELINE for Alpha Mom very soon, but I promise it’s not going to look anything like what you’re used to.

In the meantime, here’s my take on what’s wrong with the GOGOGO mentality of pushing kids to focus on college from a young age, and I’m sure you’ll be shocked to read that I don’t think pressure is the only path to excellence. Spoiler alert: You don’t get to go to college with them, folks. Maybe let them figure most of it out on their own.

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