One day I felt a nudge.
It felt like the nudge said “make your bed.”
This seemed very unimportant so I ignored it because tucking and smoothing sheets had never been at the top of my morning to-do list….
One day I felt a nudge.
It felt like the nudge said “make your bed.”
This seemed very unimportant so I ignored it because tucking and smoothing sheets had never been at the top of my morning to-do list….
My daughter turned sixteen a few weeks ago. She didn’t want a big party or grandiose plans. She told me this several times.
I said “okay, well do you want me to make a reservation at a nice restaurant and take you out or something?”
She replied “I mean, I’m not trying to be rude or anything but going out with my parents isn’t, like, fun for me.”…
The turmeric health craze has been making the rounds for a while now. Let me guess, you bought a fresh little piece of turmeric at the grocery store after hearing it was good for you with the best intentions but…that thing rotted in your vegetable drawer. Don’t even lie, I know it did. WE ARE ALL THE SAME. You tossed it in the trash along with any hope of consuming turmeric regularly ever again until you read the article where Gwyneth Paltrow said she drinks “golden milk” which is just fancy talk for “turmeric milk” every night to stay healthy and your interest was rekindled.
On February 14, 2016, my husband came home from work and changed his clothes to make our dinner reservation on time. I was already standing in the kitchen, lipstick and heels on, despite the snow outside – because fashion before function. When he came out, he asked, “You ready?” and then paused kind of sheepishly.
It was inevitable. Every year, or even a few times a year, I’d adopt a new diet. I went vegan, paleo, AIP, and Bulletproof. I counted calories, and tried South Beach and Atkins back in ye old day. I went alkaline and did “sugar” cleanses. I cut out sugar, caffeine, alcohol, legumes, nightshades, seeds, nuts, eggs, dairy, and grains…
All. At. The. Same. Time….
Ladies and Gentlemen,
For my next act, and in the dead of winter, I bring you…mango chicken curry.
But first, can I just take a minute and tell you how much I love you? I was so nervous to post my last essay Raising Teenagers because it was so personal. It was particularly vulnerable, because what I was writing, I hadn’t read anywhere else, so you always run the risk of finding out that you are awful and crazy and no one else in the history of the world was having the same experience, so you must be doing it wrong. But the comments and feedback I got was nothing like that. (It’s my most read post so far, actually!)…
Recently, I’ve become aware of a new movement that seems intent on educating the public on the joys of parenting teenagers. One Facebook friend is never short on praise of her teens, highlighting endearing and funny stories about how “cray” they are, how much they make her laugh, how intelligent, how awesome. Then, there was a podcast where the guest and host told the listeners about how much harder the toddler years are than the teenage years. Their message was “have hope, mamas of littles, it gets better!” Most recently, there was a whole chapter in the book I was reading about how delightful teenagers are to have in the house.
And they are so right…
I love getting death stares upon saying “good morning” to my daughter.
No better way to start the day, you know?
I adore an exhaustive and challenging argument should I say “no” to a sleepover request.
Fighting’s my favorite.
I swoon when you ask them to clean their rooms or— God forbid—help you bring in the groceries, and they grunt in disgust or flat out say “no,” leaving you having to come up with a talk or disciplinary action on the fly while they stare at you like “are you f***ing joking?”
Absolutely delightful, I tell you.
The teenage years are SO much better than the terrible two’s. The two year olds have temper tantrums. And teenagers don’t…er, except they do. Teens are known for being real rational and even keeled, you know? Not moody at all.
And as far as intelligence goes, those women are so right. Teens are very intelligent. In fact, they know everything! You only thought you knew more about how things work, what with all the life experience and college education, but you were wrong. Thank goodness for teenagers who save the day with their inherent wisdom and ideas about how things should be done.
They do have it right in one area though. Teens ARE hilarious. Mine makes me laugh everyday – like when she tells me with absolute sincerity that she will vote for Kanye for president because you can’t judge people by the way they present themselves, and, besides, it doesn’t mean he would be a bad president! Or when she explains why a punishment for sneaking out should only involve a gentle “oh honey, don’t do that again, alright?” and definitely not ever taking phones or devices away because if the consequence actually stings or is hard to bear, it “doesn’t work” and only makes her want to do whatever the poor decision was more.
God help us.
Listen ya’ll, I think parenting teens is neither a delightful cake walk or the worst thing in the world, although I’m sure there are exceptions to both those.
You want to really know what parenting a teen is like? It’s confusing and weird and no one knows what they are doing, but even so, parents receive either applause or judgment about their parenting based on their teen’s performance. And it’s such bullshit.
I need to talk to the parents of the teenagers who are having, at times, a challenging go at this thing. I’d like to just stand up and publicly state here that whatever poor choices your kid makes, I do not think your kid is bad. I am not instructing my kid to not hang out with yours. I don’t believe that your children’s choices are a reflection of how good or bad or involved or uninvolved of a parent you are. I believe there’s such a thing as children needing to test boundaries and limits, and experiment and tempt fate and learn how to be in their world by way of failing and messing up, which, may I remind everyone is EXACTLY WHAT’S EXPECTED OF CHILDREN AT THIS AGE—and— IT’S FREAKING SCARY.
When I was fifteen, a friend and I left her house in the middle of the night and thought it might be a great idea to walk the streets of Los Angeles to another house about a mile and a half away. Midway through our journey, a car pulled over full of what I’ll describe here as “scary older kids” with a need to humiliate. They proceeded to make us get on our knees and bark like dogs while they howled with laughter. “City of Angels” my ass. Now I ask you, dear reader, do you think we thought about a scenario like this before we left? Do you think we considered that we could possibly get harassed or kidnapped or that someone might think we were prime candidates for human trafficking by making this choice? Heck no, it just sounded fun.
I firmly have come to believe that “good parenting” has more to do with the undercurrent and overall well being of a child than the specific choices they make while their brains are still developing and are prone to “risky behaviors.” And I’ll tell you what, the stunning display of backlash I receive when I ask my teen to wash the dishes is “risky behavior” indeed.
Kids come hardwired with a propensity to either conform or buck the system. To be a people pleaser or a challenger. To be quiet and gentle or fierce and loud. To have a tendency towards obeying the rules or being a rule breaker. And before they are grown and have a harness on this inclination, and can decide how best to make it work for them (the application of wisdom), they are experimenting with this sort of behavior with an immature brain, so it can make this teen stage hard to be a party to.
Because of this, parenting teens will have you wondering whether you really are a terrible mother despite all your best efforts one minute because they drank alcohol at a party, and then patting yourself on the back for the A+ they earned in Chemistry plus a glowing teacher report, the next. Teenagers, and your experience of them, are a walking, talking contradiction.
It’s like this: you know in The Sound Of Music where the nuns are singing How Do You Solve A Problem Like Maria?
When I’m with her I’m confused
out of focus and bemused
and I never know exactly where I am
Unpredictable as weather
she’s as flighty as a feather
she’s a darling
she’s a demon
she’s a lamb
She’ll out pester any pest
drive a hornet from it’s nest
she could throw a whirling dervish out of whirl
She is gentle, she is wild
she’s a riddle, she’s a child
she’s a headache
she’s an angel
she’s a girl.
Many a thing you know you’d like to tell her
Many a thing she ought to understand
but how do you make her stay?
and listen to all you say?
how do you keep a wave upon the sand?
YOUR TEENAGER IS MARIA.
And you are responsible for Maria when she is all over the place emotionally and there is no gauge to determine how well you are doing and she just seems to be confusing and rude but then also nice and pleasant and the whole ordeal just makes your brain into scrambled eggs.
Also your teen is not a nun like Maria, so you still have to worry about their morality.
I’m so sorry, but this is the very best way I can think of to explain it to you. Teenagers are fun. Teenagers are not fun. Teenagers are bright. Teenagers are dumb. They are all the things. I’m so going to get in trouble for saying teenagers are dumb, aren’t I? But here is one thing you need to watch out for that I suspect is universal: Teenagers have selective memory when it comes to how they remember you as a parent and there is nothing you can do about it.
They will blame and slander your name for things that aren’t even true. They don’t even care.
Just now, as I was writing this, my teen rifled through my pantry and fridge exclaiming that we “never have any food in the house!”
I guess I’m just supposed to remember that this stage is delightful and that she is so funny—HILARIOUS EVEN—for turning her nose up at the fresh organic berries, frozen pizza pockets, bag of chips, avocados, gourmet chocolate bars, perfectly good eggs SHE COULD MAKE HERSELF, bagels and cream cheese, tortillas, bread, peanut butter and jelly, and apples on the counter, which are all there right now apart of the “no food in the house”—I swear to it— but because there is not a to-go chicken burrito or hot and sour soup from the take out place down the street I have “nothing.” Ha, ha…HA. So funny. I love this.
This is the kind of stuff they pull. Sometimes they tell you stories and laugh and are lovely, truly. Sometimes they get all giddy and let you in on their latest crush and get pumped to go snowboarding and their delight is infectious. It’s true. Sometimes you just look at this growing adult you gave birth to and pray they forgive you for not being everything they need and deserve because your love for them is so fierce and your ability and skills so limited.
And also, they’ll judge and spread rumors about your “not having any food.” A story I’m sure she’ll tell her friends and future therapist, who will all pity her for having such a neglectful mom, a legacy I can never actually prove wrong since we can’t time travel to the specific days the teen complained and take stock of the food situation, DAMMIT.
And so you just have to take it even though it’s not true. Like a duck letting the water run off your back.
At least I think this is probably what you should do over, say, taking pictures and attaching them to a blog post as proof of the food you buy. This seems like a monumental waste of time since the teenager in question will likely just accuse you of buying the food items after the fact and acting as if they were there the whole time even though I’m known for my authenticity and would never do something like that, but you know, maybe I am just sick of taking it and feel the need to do something…ANYTHING to release some of this pent up “taking it” energy or else I will die. DIE I TELL YOU.
Yes, raising a teenager is the gift that keeps on giving.
Everyone is right.
PS- look who finally found herself something to eat in this neglectful, barren, shell of a house…
PPS- For anyone worried I’ve exploited my teenager, I will inform you that despite whatever you think, she was absolutely thrilled that I was writing about her, even in a snarky way. She knows how she is. She also knows how I am. We good.
Happy 2018, everyone!
I was listening to a podcast yesterday about simplifying and organizing. In it, the host asked the guest what would be a simple thing that everyone could do right now to help their home function with more simplicity. The guest said to donate or throw away all of our towels. Explaining that in any given household we have all different kinds of towels, some are one color, others are another color, some are short, some are long, some go in only the kids bathroom, others only in the guest bedroom, while others are only reserved for the master bedroom. So the idea is to buy a stack of twelve, non-expensive towels from Target, all the same size and color, and then you never have to delegate where certain towels go again. Plus, she said the cheaper, scratchier towels dry faster and better. You know it’s true….
This is how I understood an adult was supposed to ring in the new year:
However, this formula never sounded particularly appealing to me. I had been out on New Years before and while I thought it was going to be festive and fun, it really was just a bombardment on my senses (too loud, too chaotic, too many sloppy drunk people) and around the ten o’clock mark I’d be ready to head home and watch he ball drop in New York and call it a night. I’m a fun person. I love a party. But New Years Eve was starting to feel like Las Vegas to me. A forced pass to do whatever you wanted without thinking of consequences. And that felt sleezy and bad, even if I wasn’t participating, it was all around me and I absorbed it like osmosis. Although I was young, so perhaps I wasn’t going to the classiest of places, so there’s that.
Even so, I noticed my kids were by far the most excited about the New Year’s holiday so I never wanted to leave them. Their joy was contagious and I wanted to contribute to the magic of it somehow and be a part of that, so I started a new tradition, a family tradition, that everyone looks forward to each year.
Here is what we do:
Step one- we invite people over. We have a large family in town with lots of cousins that we love being around so normally we just keep the invite list to that, but if we didn’t have family around we’d do family friends with kids.
Step two- this is the “event” part and it’s a little different so stick with me and envision this: I buy a bunch of balloons, however many people will be at our party, thats how many balloons I buy. Then I spend an afternoon and go through my bible and write down verses on slips of paper. If you are not religious you can do wishes or quotes instead. Now, this is where you can go one of two different ways, so pick whichever one you fancy:
We don’t always use animal print balloons, but when we do…
Way 1– along with your bible verse on the slip of paper, write a number (1, 2, 3..etc) then purchase several small gifts (however many people are coming to the party, this is how many “gifts” you buy.) I mix it up, and buy kid things for the kids (a hot wheels, gum packs, playdoh, markers, coloring books, pez, comic book, special drinks like chocolate milk or hot chocolate packets, etc) and then I buy adult things as well (I buy a mixture of some nice things and some very small things, like nice lip balms, a bottle of wine or tequila, a national geographic magazine, a book, a calendar, gourmet chocolate bars, a funny mug, a candle, gourmet tea, a kombucha assortment—we’re weird— Starbucks gift card, etc)
Once all the gifts are bought, I display them all on a buffet table.
Gifts displayed from 2016
Slip the pieces of paper with the bible verses and numbers in each balloon. Blow up, tie and then place in the Christmas tree. We always leave our tree up through Jan 1st to do this. Then, once everyone comes, they pick a balloon at random, pop it, get their bible verse and then whatever number they get, that’s the order they go in to pick a gift. So, if you get #1, you get to go first and take your pick of everything. The person with #2 goes next, and so on until all the gifts are gone. Hopefully, there’s enough prizes for each age group to be happy with something.
Way 2- Slip the pieces of paper with the bible verses in each balloon, then before you blow them up, put tinier treats in each balloon itself. So, some balloons will have ten M&M’s, and some with have a five dollar bill in them, or one dollar, and so on. Small chapsticks also fit in balloons well.
Which ever way you choose is lots of fun and just depends on your budget.
Then, you ask each family coming to bring an appetizer. We eat only appetizers on New Years, which is just the tradition we like. If all families bring an app, it leaves the host only having to provide 3-4 apps or so plus dessert. If you plan right, this is easy peasy. As the host, I almost always do a tray of shrimp cocktail because it’s easy, festive, and can be assembled on a platter an hour or so before the party starts and refrigerated until go-time. Then I do a hot dip of some kind, which again can be mixed up earlier in the day and held in the fridge and baked just before everyone comes. I normally chose a decadent homemade artichoke dip and serve with tortilla chips.
Then, for my last appetizer(s) I mix it up. Sometimes I do stuffed mushrooms. Other times, I assemble a cheese and cured meat plate with crackers and grapes, and other times I do a baked brie in a baking dish and top with homemade rosemary cranberry sauce. If I have an indoor grill handy, I like to do Ina Gartens chicken skewers with peanut sauce because you can serve these at room temperature or even cold on a bed of rosemary sprigs and it looks divine (one thing I’ve learned is that people bringing appetizers generally do not bring protein, so as the host, you should plan on having at least one protein based dish available, which is another reason I love the shrimp. So easy to just defrost, make up the cocktail sauce and then refrigerate. I make my own cocktail sauce, which also makes it special.)
Other ideas include a vegetable tray with ranch, or if you are like me, an assortment of quick pickled veggies like asparagus, cucumbers, okra, cauliflower and carrots. Alternately, a “cowboy caviar” salsa is always a hit and full of veggies. One year I even steamed homemade Asian shrimp dumplings and served with sirarcha. If you are not this fancy, you can buy potstickers in the frozen section of your grocery store and serve with bottled ponzu sauce. Deviled eggs always go over well. Flatbreads with carmelized red onion, bacon and gorgonzola is something we’ve done, but good crusty bread with a dish of good olive oil and balsamic and freshly cracked pepper works as well. You can also set out some slices of ham and Hawaiian rolls and some good mustard and people can make little sandwiches. Caprese is always a good idea. Oh! I almost forgot my absolute favorite New Years app…Devils on Horseback! We do that a lot. What’s not to love about bacon wrapped dates (or dried apricots) with almonds in the middle? Serve that with mango chutney.
Just try to get a good mix of homemade and pre packaged stuff if you can plan ahead. People appreciate homemade and it feels more special. I understand not being able to go totally homemade, but plan for some.
For dessert, I generally make a batch of cookies and freezer fudge made with butter and honey and nuts. Here is the recipe I use: http://theelliotthomestead.com/2011/12/homemade-fudge/ It’s delicious but has to stay in the freezer to hold it’s shape, which is annoying but just keep telling everybody it’s in there. Once they try it they won’t mind going the extra mile to open the freezer door for some. We sometimes do rice crispy treats (but with way more butter and marshmallows than the original recipe calls for…trust me) or a big GF cake of some sort. We set out frozen and defrosted cream puffs once, before I was gluten free. Boo.
Next, set out some bottles of wine or tequila or what ever your family drinks, and don’t forget the champagne and sparkling apple cider for the kids. Buy those New Years packs of horns and beads and tiaras and hats and set those down the center of your table. Put on Michael Buble and Frank Sinatra. Or Dave Matthews Band. Listen, when I can, I love curating my own music blends and enjoy folding in some Spanish or French or salsa stuff in there too.
And you guys, if the whole appetizer thing is way too much effort, just make a big pot of soup or chili, bake some cornbread up and call it a day. Crab legs on a newspaper table w/ butter cups and bread, or fondue night is another fun idea.
Eat, drink, pick prizes, and then download the game “heads up” to your phone or play another game…MONOPOLY ANYONE? until it’s time to watch the ball drop in New York, then get thee to bed before 11pm. Or if you have especially title kids, like we did one year, just look up a video of the ball dropping from previous years at 8pm and pretend it’s the real new year. The kids will have no clue. Here’s proof:
It’s a perfect plan. The best of both worlds!
To get you started, here are my two go-to New Years Eve Appetizer Recipes:
Notice the shrimp cocktail?
Shrimp Cocktail Sauce:
1 cup Heinz Chili Sauce (not Heinz cocktail sauce!)
1 tablespoon Horseradish
juice from 1/2 a lemon
1/2 teaspoon salt
Mix ingredients together in a small bowl. Taste and adjust. You can add more horseradish to make it spicier, or more Heinz sauce to make it less spicy. This is a “to your taste” recipe. To serve, select a large pretty platter and scatter parsley along the edges. Pile defrosted and dried with paper towels, fully cooked, medium to large size shrimp all around the platter. Nestle the sauce in the center or off to one side. Cut lemon into wedges and scatter throughout the tray right on top of the shrimp. Cover with plastic wrap and refrigerate until showtime.
Best Artichoke Dip Ever
serves 6 as an appetizer
2 14-ounce can of quartered artichokes (not marinated)
2 cups sour cream
2 cups grated parmesan cheese (the kind in the green cylinder can is preferable for this)
4 cloves garlic, minced
fresh squeezed lemon juice (a couple tablespoons)
paprika for sprinkling on top
Preheat the oven to 325 degrees
Chop the quartered artichoke hearts up a bit to make smaller pieces. Toss all the ingredients together except paprika and thoroughly mix. Spoon dip into a 8×8 inch glass baking dish and smooth the surface. Sprinkle the top with paprika and bake until heated through, about 30 minutes. Serve immediately with tortilla chips or fresh bread for dipping.
I wish you all a safe and healthy New Year, from our family to yours.
Merry Christmas everybody! Here is our family updates as we head into 2018. Ellie, we are coming to realize, is a natural born sexist. She is four and says things like “Mom, you can’t do that right? Only boys can do that.” And I always respond with something like “well, no, girls can do that too.” Invariably, she will take this in but then follow it up with a clarification. “Mom, but you are not as strong as boys. That’s what I’m sayin’. Mom’s can’t do that because they are not strong enough…but Daddies are!” And I say “Ellie, girls can do anything boys can do.” And she says “but they are not as strong.” And because she doesn’t understand that there are different kinds of strength, or that trash bags are not that heavy, I just concede the argument and understand she won’t be leading the feminist movement any time soon….