A Halloween Agreement for More Acceptable Working Conditions

Oct 31 2012

Dear Parents,

I cannot urge you strongly enough to read through this document and make sure all Parties sign before you commence trick-or-treating. When we stand up for justice and fair treatment, everyone wins.

Because I care,
Beth

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Here’s the full text. Please see below for the printable version.

A Halloween Agreement for More Acceptable Working Conditions
made this 31st day of October, 2012 2013
between you (the Children) and we (the Parents)

WHEREAS the Children are unable to trick-or-treat without the Parents; and WHEREAS the Parents, due to unfair social and cultural constraints, are unable to trick-or-treat by themselves;

NOW, THEREFORE, in consideration of the mutual undertakings herein contained, the parties hereto agree to the following:

SECTION 1: the Parents will perform the roles of costume designer, make-up artist, hairstylist, safety patrol officer, and manners coach.

SECTION 2: the Children will perform the role of trick-or-treator.

SECTION 3: the Children will acquire loads of candy.

SECTION 4: the Children will share, without objection or complaint, all candy with the Parents.

IN WITNESS WHEREOF, the Parties hereto have executed this agreement the date first written above.

______________          ______________
Parents                        Children

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And here’s the printable:

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Now let’s all have a safe and equal Halloween, shall we?

Amen.

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Last-Last-Minute Halloween Costume

Oct 31 2012

Hey, thanks to all of you who came to my Halloween Eve rescue with great, find-stuff-at-home, last-minute costume ideas.

Ian, the only one of my kiddos who attends a school that allows costumes, decided this morning to be a troll.

You may be confused, as I was, about what exactly the difference is between a troll, a zombie and a vampire.

A troll, it turns out, has horns (thank you, gel and hairspray!) and clean but ragged clothes. Minus the horns, we seem to be a family of trolls. Who knew?

A zombie is filthy, shambles instead of walks, and brains drip from its mouth.

A vampire wears black (never brown – geez, Mom), has fangs, and there’s blood all over its clothes.

Vampires and zombies, I guess, are messy eaters; I’ll bet their mommies take them straight to the tub when dinner’s over.

As you can see, this is a troll.

Obviously.

I asked my troll if they all have eyes this pretty, deep brown and doe-like.

And my troll said, “Mom. Stop. I’m a mean troll. Not pretty.”

But then he smiled and wrecked everything.

Happy Halloween from my trollish family!
Here’s wishing you a safe and fun holiday.

Also, I don’t mean to ruin my nice holiday wishes by being competitive, but on the Massive Candy Acquisition Front? We’re gonna take you down, friends.

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Eye Contact and the Teenaged Child

Oct 30 2012

Abby’s 14. She told me today to quit doing that thing with your eyes, Mom. I might’ve been lecturing her a teeny, tiny bit at the time, but I think “gently sharing information” is probably more accurate than “lecturing,” Abby.

What thing with my eyes? I asked because I know there was no “thing” and she was just being dramatic.

You know, she said, that THING where you open your eyes WAY too wide and your eyebrows go up too high? It’s irritating, Mom.

I have no idea what she’s talking about. Teenagers can be so fussy, you guys.

It reminded me of that time when I was 14 and my dad told me to quit doing that thing with your eyes, Beth.

What thing with my eyes? I asked because I knew there was no “thing” and he was just being critical because he’s a father and fathers, like, don’t understand anything EVER, and GEEZ, DAD.

You know, he said, that THING where you close your eyes half way like Garfield? It’s irritating and disrespectful, Beth.

I still have no idea what he was talking about.

Sometimes I just feel so misunderstood, you know?

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Random Thoughts on Laundry, Gratitude and Hurricane Sandy

Oct 29 2012

I wasn’t going to write today but then I got to thinking about all of you East Coast friends watching the storm roll in, and, well, I just wanted to say “hi” for a minute and stand with you.

Here’s the thing about today and time: I might have joked about laundry in the past — about taking a break at the base camp of Mt. Laundry and my hope to summit before nightfall — but I’m currently on a many-days-long trek through the Himalayas of Laundry, and there’s no end in sight, much less time to write. (Psst. Send help.)

See, we spent the weekend thinking we might have scabies. For those of you who haven’t been formally introduced, scabies are parasitic mites that burrow under human skin and then hunker down and live there causing all sorts of infectious mayhem and allergic havoc. Sort of like a special, freaky event for the whole family just in time for Halloween.

Turns out, we don’t have scabies — woohoo! — and I might have to re-evaluate my late-night relationship with WebMD. Unfortunately, bug-bite panic ensued anyway (we don’t have scabies, but we could have, says my brain), and the only way to alleviate my emotional trauma it is to do all the extra laundry I’ve been avoiding for nigh on centuries.

So. I’m in the process of washing every pillow, every mattress cover, every sheet, every duvet, every blanket, every pillowcase, every stuffed animal and every throw pillow from our beds. Because over-reacting is one of my specialties. Also, six beds is a LOT of beds, friends. And the biggest time commitment of all is the grumbling and groaning I’m doing about it.

Which stops now.

Because really, Beth? Really really? You have access to medical care to treat your mildly irritated skin. You have five healthy children who each have a bed. You have a washer and a dryer to indulge your wash-everything obsession. And you have shelter, heat, food, running water and electricity on the day Hurricane Sandy is making crazy happen through the Atlantic and on the East Coast.

How about replacing the grumbling with gratitude, lady? Yes? Yes.

OK, then. I am so glad we had this chat.

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In other news related to storms, my mama’s name is Sandy. My mom, as everyone will tell you, is all sugar with a side of honey. She’s the nicest, kindest, most gentle lady on the planet with maybe a tiny, secret side of sass to spice her up.

I take after my father. 😉

When I was in high school, my mama’s friends were bewildered that we ever squabbled. How? they thought. How could you ever argue with your sweet mom? they asked. Well, I had to work diligently at it — nose to the grind-down-my-mama stone — but I managed. And my mama endured and loved me through it ’cause that’s what mamas do.

You can see, then, why the idea of a Hurricane Sandy — or Frankenstorm Sandy — seems just completely incongruous to us. We’re watching the storm with stunned awe and disbelief, mostly because of its magnitude and the toll it’s already taken in Haiti and elsewhere … and partly because it doesn’t mesh with the Sandy we know and love.

Weird and weird.

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For those of you who are — or are potentially — affected by the storm, our family sends love and prayers your way. We hope you’re safe. We hope you’re dry. We hope you’re warm. We hope you don’t have scabies… by which I mean we hope, at the end of all of this, that whatever bad thing you thought might happen didn’t actually happen, and that, in fact, you’ll have much for which to be grateful.

Love to you and yours,
Beth

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P.S. If you’re on the East Coast waiting out the storm, please do leave a comment here or on Facebook and let us know where you are and how you’re doing. And if you’re elsewhere, please use this space to let our East Coast friends know they’re in our thoughts. Thanks, friends.

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Easy Peasy FAST Homemade Bread

Oct 27 2012

There are places in my house that require my attention.

My little boys’ room, for example, is just begging for some quality time.

So I had to really put on my thinking cap to find a way — any way at all — to avoid the mess.

And that’s where homemade bread comes in. The perfect solution! Fall is in the air. Baking must be done. OK, so maybe we can’t actually walk in our house without tripping, but it finally smells terrific around here, and I think we can all agree that’s a stunning victory.

In case you need a way to avoid the mess, too, I’ll share the bread recipe with you here, adapted from my Easy Peasy FAST Homemade Cinnamon Rolls. Adaption and repeating successes wherever and whenever possible are some of the best keys to raising millions of children.

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Easy Peasy FAST Homemade Bread
or Focaccia or Pizza or Rolls – you pick!

 Here’s what you’ll need for the dough:

  • 2 cups warm water
  • 1 Tbsp sugar
  • 1 Tbsp active dry yeast
  • 1 1/2 tsp salt
  • 2 Tbsp olive oil
  • 5 cups flour

Step 1: Dissolve 1 tablespoon of sugar in 2 cups of warm water. You can tell the water’s the right temperature if you’d stick a baby in it. (Please note: sticking an actual baby in water you’re going to use for bread is generally frowned upon in the culinary community. Make sure no one’s looking is what I’m saying.)

Step 2: After the baby’s out of the water, sprinkle 1 tablespoon of active dry yeast on top. Let it sit for 5 minutes until it gets foamy and stinky. There’s another baby joke here, but I’m going to rise above it. (Rise above it. Yeast. Bread rising. Get it? Har har.) (Sorry.)

Step 3: Dump remaining ingredients (5 cups flour, 1 1/2 teaspoons salt, 2 tablespoons olive oil) into a mixer with a bread hook.* Add the yeasty sugar water to the bowl and mix until it’s all blended into a lump.

*If you don’t have a mixer or are without a bread hook, just dump all of this into a bowl and mix it by hand. No need for fancy equipment. Just blend it all up ’til it pulls like this.

Step 4: Dump your dough lump into an oiled bowl.

 Cover with a towel, and set it in a warm spot to rise for 20 minutes.

It’s critical at this stage to distract yourself by reading a book or skimming a magazine or refereeing a fight between your children; anything to keep your mind off of cleaning your boys’ room. If you’re not very, very careful, you might try to convince yourself that cleaning for just a few minutes couldn’t hurt, but we all know where that thinking gets us, right? To more cleaning. And, friends? I don’t want that for any of us. Trust me on this. Learn from my poor choices. Cleaning begets cleaning begets cleaning. Stop the madness, mamas. WE CAN OVERCOME.

Step 5: Squish your dough into an oiled pan. You can choose: 2 9×13 casserole dishes OR 2 large cast iron skillets for focaccia bread. Or you can make 2 loaves using bread pans. Or 2 rounded loaves on baking stones. Or lots of little rounds for rolls. That’s probably what I love most about this recipe. Versatility!

This time, I made one focaccia loaf and one round bread loaf. I squished my focaccia into a cast iron skillet thusly.

And I drizzled it with olive oil.

For my round loaf (pictured finished here),

I punched down the other half of the dough, made it into a sphere, and put it in another oiled cast iron skillet.

Step 6: Cover and let rise 10 minutes.

Step 7: Add toppings if you like. For focaccia, I suggest 1/2 cup of shredded cheese or thinly sliced onions or 1 tablespoon of the herb-of-your-choice (fresh basil? yum!). I put leeks on 1/2 of our focaccia this time. Highly recommend!

Step 8: Bake at 400 degrees Fahrenheit for 20 minutes until golden brown.

And oh, man. Is there anything better than fresh, homemade, just-out-of-the-oven bread?

Sure, we may live in squalor, but we’re eating fresh, homemade bread while we do it. I say those things cancel each other out, don’t you?

In fact, the only real downside to this entire plan is the fact that this bread only takes an hour from start to finish. Which means I’m going to have to find a lot more baking to do.

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Easy Peasy FAST Homemade Bread
Ingredients and Directions: The Concise, Boring Version

Dough:

  • 2 cups warm water
  • 1 Tbsp sugar
  • 1 Tbsp active dry yeast
  • 1 1/2 tsp salt
  • 2 Tbsp olive oil
  • 5 cups flour

Directions:

  1. Dissolve 1 tablespoon sugar in 2 cups warm water.
  2. Sprinkle yeast on top of sugar-water and let sit for 5 minutes ’til yeast is foaming.
  3. Dump remaining ingredients (5 cups flour, 1 1/2 teaspoons salt, 2 tablespoons olive oil) in a mixer. Add the yeasty sugar water. Mix with a dough hook ’til everything is combined and sticky.
  4. Put sticky dough into an oiled bowl. Cover. Let rise 20 minutes.
  5. Squash dough into oiled pans: choose 2 9×13 casserole dishes OR 2 large cast iron skillets for focaccia bread. You can make 2 loaves using bread pans. Or 2 rounded loaves on baking stones. Or lots of little rounds for rolls.
  6. Let rise 10 minutes.
  7. Consider adding toppings like:
    • 1/2 cup shredded cheese
    • 1 Tbsp herbs
    • 1 Tbsp olive oil and 1 tsp crunchy, coarse-ground salt
    • Thin-sliced leeks, onions, or mushrooms
  8. Bake at 400 degrees Fahrenheit for 20 minutes until golden.

Eat it hot! Or at room temperature. Or cold. Whatever floats your boat.

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My Crystal Ball Is Broken. Waiting Sucks.

Oct 25 2012

My crystal ball’s been on the fritz ever since I accidentally left it in the backyard and my son peed on it. Be careful with your crystal ball is what I’m saying; apparently your fairy godmother is only allowed to issue one per mama (would’ve been nice to know that ahead of time), and if you don’t care for yours responsibly you don’t get a new one no matter how many letters you write or how much you beg. Stingy creatures, fairy godmothers. Probably related to that unreliable, late night beer-drinker, the Tooth Fairy.

If you’ve ever tried to work this mama gig without a crystal ball then you know, like me, that sometimes you don’t get to see into the future and you have to just wait.

Waiting sucks.

Hard.

You know. Like when you’re waiting to see if your kid is going to grow up to be a productive, helpful member of society or land in juvie for cutting out your spleen in a bloodbath in the middle of the night because you just made her clean her room for the last time, MOTHER.

Once upon a time, I wanted a crystal ball in a bad way. My kid was lonely, friendless, miserable, and inventing creative new ways to get suspended. Even though more experienced mamas assured me that we’d all be fine… that this was just a phase… that kids learn social skills at different times… I wondered. I mean, really. There are only so many calls you can get from the principal (and so many bottles of wine you can offer her in your head) before the wondering runs rampant.

Fast forward to this week with me, please.

My kid and I attended an evening meeting at school, and there at the door to greet all of the families and hand out informational sheets was the brand new principal. Now, my kid had run ahead of me and so we entered the building separately, mashed in with other families. And that’s when the most stunning thing happened.

Mrs. Principle looked at my kid — this lovely girl child who was born in Guatemala and wears her elegant, long nose and her creamy brown skin and her curly black hair with great pride — and said, “Do you need this paper in English or Spanish?”

And my kid stopped, looked back for me, and hollered, “Hey, Mom! Do we want this paper in English or Spanish? How about Spanish, Mom? PLEASE?”

“I didn’t do that well in high school Spanish,” I admitted to Mrs. Principal. “We’d better take it in English.”

“MOM,” Aden said, disappointed I wasn’t a better sport. “Come on.”

“Just wanted to make sure,” Mrs. Principal said with a smile, clearly hoping I wouldn’t be offended that she didn’t know Aden or me or the languages we speak.

I smiled back and took my hand-out with a level of glee that probably seemed out of place for the situation. But oh, Mrs. Principal, I thought. You don’t know that you just made my day. You don’t know how ELATED I am right now. You don’t know that I am going to JUMP FOR JOY when I get home and repeat this tiny story to my husband AT HIGH VOLUME because this is just exactly what I hoped to see in my broken crystal ball just a few short years ago. 

You guys. You guys! I am the mother of a kid the principal doesn’t even know. 

WOOHOO!

(And alright, Waiting. Fine. You win this round.)

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When Good Enough Turns Out to be Good AND Enough

Oct 22 2012

Sometimes it’s important to push for bigger, better, stronger, fitter. More love. More truth. Deeper joy. Bring it, Life.

Other times, I am kaput. Bringing it’s been brought, and I’m wrung out. Done ditty done.

It seems like the trick is to figure out when to make the push and when to realize that good enough is good enough.

Road map, please? Anyone? A little help?

I’m generally a fan of this self-made philosophy:

I will do what I can do.
I will try to do a little bit of what I think I cannot do.
And I will forgive myself for the things that remain undone. 

But sometimes I forget, and I get caught in the push.

I have twin boys who are six-years-and-one-week-old today.

WOO to the HOO!

I love it when kids get older and more reliably wipe their own leaky body parts. No looking back, right? No weeping at times gone by! My kids are growing up, and it’s fantastic…  except for when I hate it just a little. Like late at night when Greg catches me sitting on their beds with their sleeping carcasses snuggled in my lap. “Did he need something?” Greg asks, “Did he wake up?” “No,” I whisper with my face buried in my baby’s hair, “I needed something.” And Greg nods and quietly shuts the door.

But I have twin boys who are six-years-and-one-week-old today — WOO to the HOO! — and that’s worthy of celebration no matter this mama’s occasional hang-ups about her babies getting big.

Once upon a time, I was a great kids’ party planner. I was Pinterest before Pinterest was a thing.

When my 1-year-old kid had a circus party, there was a juggler.

When my 3-year-old kid had a princess party, I hired a princess to read stories.

When my 4-year-old kid had a Dora party, Swiper swiped the whole dang party, and we donned Backpack and consulted Map to track it down.

I spent weeks planning every detail, drawing posters, and creating themed gift bags.

I know. I hardly recognize myself anymore, either. Because then I had 1,000 kids, and whew! party-planning wasn’t quite so much anymore, ya know? But still, I try to do something cool for each kid these days. To do what I can do and then a little bit more.

On Friday, though, I realized that my boys already turned six.

On Friday, they asked if they were going to have a party. And also, Mom, can it pretty please be a Pokemon Beyblades Ninjago Transformers party?

On Friday, I said, “Um, yeah. Sometime. I don’t know when, though. I’ll have to look at the calendar, and that kind of party is elaborate, guys. It takes planning.” And I also said, “we’ll see” which is like the death-knell of hope in our house.

Their faces fell, but I thought, what else can I do? There’ll have to be a Pokemon cake and Transformers decorations and Ninjago swag. We’ll need Beyblades games and I’ll have to make the invitations myself, and, and, and…

And on Friday, I realized that the only person holding back the party was me. Me and a heaping pile of my own expectations

So on Friday, I sent out a plaintext email to my kids’ friends, and I invited them to a

Pokemon Beyblades Ninjago Transformers party
(where all or none of those things may be represented… who knows??) 

And then I bought a not-Pokemon, not-Beyblades, not-Ninjago, not-Transformers pinata from the local Mexican grocery store. And cake mix and tubs of frosting. And rainbow temporary tattoos. And two bags of candy.

I dug brown paper lunch bags out of the drawer for pinata loot and wrote kids’ names on them in fading Sharpie while my teenager and her friend made dense, collapsed cupcakes by following two different sets of directions.

Yesterday, we had a birthday party that in no way resembled the Pokemon Beyblades Ninjago Transformers party of my dreams. And you know what?

The kids had a blast.

They played outside and tracked dog poop in the house.

They killed the pinata on the second swing and then gleefully pummeled it on the ground ’til everyone had a turn.

They decorated their own cupcakes, which is the most terrible and wonderful of all small child activities.

And we sent several little ones home looking like they were mauled by Rainbow Brite.

It was, officially, the very best Pokemon Beyblades Ninjago Transformers party the world has ever known.

In conclusion, I love looking at Pinterest. I do. And someday I hope to play at that level again.

But for right now, my kids feel special and important and celebrated, and that is good enough. And not just good enough in the shrug-my-shoulders, I-give-up kind of way. Nope. I’m talking both good and enough. Because it turns out that sometimes

bigger, better, stronger, and fitter
— more love, more truth, and deeper joy —
all happen when I realize
this life is already good and enough.

Also?

Happy Birthday, babies! Mama loves you loves you.

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Psst… do you have a story of “good and enough?” I’m all ears.

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