Breakfast

Zoë is whining that she just wants strawberries for breakfast. I am insisting that she eat a waffle with her strawberries. I feel bad though. I feel like I’m all, No, you have to eat the fucking carbs!

ETA: Now I’m all worried about the grammatical implications of where I placed “fucking” in the post. They’re not copulating carbs. They’re just regular old carbs.

…..although, if carbs did fuck and then procreate, that would totally explain my ass. And my thighs…..and my stomach.

2nd ETA: Conversation I had with Mike to write the last edit.

Me: I have a weird question. I can’t think of the word you use when you find out an ex has had children. You know, Oh dear God, they’ve……?

Mike: I don’t know. Spawned?

Me: Hmm, not spawned, but like it.

Mike: Are you trying to describe the act or the child?

Me: I’m trying to describe the result of the act.

Mike: Not spawned. Procreate?

Me: THAT’S IT! Thank you!

Yes, I called him at work for this. Stop judging me!

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I’m not okay

Rachael wanted yogurt for a snack, so I went to fetch her a Chobani Champions yogurt tube from the fridge. It seemed kind of inflated, but I figured I was just misremembering how full they were. Nope. Seriously, talk about contents under pressure. It exploded on me, in my hair, on the floor, the wall, the cabinets, and even on the ceiling. Then, to add insult to injury, it slow jizzed all over my hand. It’s not the yogurt’s fault, though. It was just trying to capture the mood of the day.

We went to open house at Rachael’s kindergarten today. We had received her teacher assignment on Monday, and after Facebook stalking information gathering, I was still a bit worried because I hadn’t been a fan based on the brief interaction I had with her a few months ago. Fortunately, I felt much better after watching her interact with Rachael and having brief conversation with her. Rachael loved the room scavenger hunt, and excitedly bounced from place to place in the room to check everything out. Just like my little girl, she settled herself in the reading area and started flipping through books. Her teacher is pregnant, but not due until January, and will only be out for two months. The teacher subbing for her subbed during her last pregnancy, and has done other long term subbing in the school.
Afterward, we went to the school library. Rachael excitedly wound her way through the maze of bookshelves, marveling at the number of books. They had a small fish tank, and hanging on the wall was a portrait of my principal from when I was in elementary school. (Different school, though. It almost felt like life was coming full circle on me.) As we left, I showed Rachael her very own special door that only the kindergarteners get to use, which thrilled her a little.

So, by all accounts, everything went well and we’re ready to go. But I still came home and shoved three of these cupcakes in my face as I read through the packet of information and completed the forms her teacher had sent home. I think about how Rachael had walked the halls pensively, hands behind her back, taking everything in. She looked so small in those long, towering halls. But I know she’s growing up and she’s ready for this, whether I am or not.

One of the ways I realize that I am stressed or upset is when my body starts to hurt. The psychosomatic manifestations of stress with fibromyalgia are just fanfuckingtastic, let me tell ya. So I knew how bothered I was when my back and neck started throbbing. This afternoon I had a big ole blubbery ugly cry. When it was over, I just felt weak and wanted to take a nap. I probably would have if I didn’t have so many things to do. (I almost feel like I’m nesting today. I want to get things clean and organized so we can start the year with a calm and organized mind. Or, at least, an organized…something.) Instead, I made like Trinity and told myself to get up.

Anyone else starting school for the first time? How are you coping?

Strawberry champagne cupcakes

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A few weeks ago, Mike and I took the kids down to Virginia Tech for a indoctrination visit. As we walked around campus, our girls with seemingly endless energy suddenly couldn’t put one foot in front of the other because they were tiiiiiiirrrrrrrrred and so desperately needed to be carried.

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Early in the day, before they were deaded.

We had any number of places where Mike and I needed to eat, such as Macados and the restaurant that had taken over the space where Bogens used to be, 622 North. I was really looking forward to dinner at 622 North. It looked different….certainly different from most places in Blacksburg. Mike really enjoyed his chorizo burger, but my garlic chicken was supremely disappointing. I like garlic, and if it says “garlic chicken”, I’d like some vampires to fucking flee when I breathe in their general direction. But because of my non-garlicky meal, there was no fleeing! (Unrelated: if I came over, would you let me in?)
Anyway, it was that disappointing meal that led us to decide to go elsewhere for dessert. Out of curiosity, we visited a boutique cupcake shop downtown. All the cupcakes looked gorgeous in the window with unique flavors: blueberry cobbler; chocolate avocado; strawberry champagne. I eyed the strawberry champagne cupcake and imagined what it would taste like: light; effervescent; strawberry. (I can’t think of anything fancy for strawberry.) It was none of that. The cake was tasteless. The frosting was heavy and gloppy, and there was too much of it. There was a tiny, coagulated glop of strawberry and champagne…we’ll call it a compote in the middle. Rather than do what I wanted to do, (yell LIAR! at the cashier with my mouth stuffed full of cake) I decided to make the cupcake that I wanted.

Taste testing
First, I had to figure out what kind of champagne I wanted to use. I found a recipe that used pink. So I picked up pink champagne and moscato, and I had some brut at home. I felt like the moscato and pink were way too sweet and didn’t give me the fizzy, bubbly taste I was hoping for, (especially since the moscato wasn’t sparkling. Don’t take your children to buy booze. They’ll act up, you’ll panic, and get the wrong thing.) So I chose the regular old brut for my cupcakes.

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Taste testing right before making cupcakes may lead to drunken baking.

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If you don’t have a child with strawberry blonde hair to whisk your dry ingredients, any old child will do.

Strawberry champagne cupcakes
Yield 24

Ingredients

Cupcakes
2 1/4 cups all-purpose flour
1/2 cup cake flour
1 Tbsp baking powder
1 tsp salt
1 cup (2 sticks) unsalted butter (room temperature)
2 1/4 cups sugar
1 1/2 tsp vanilla extract
3 large eggs
1 large egg white
1 cup milk
2 1/2 cups finely chopped strawberries
1/2 cup brut champagne

Frosting
1 1/2 cups chopped strawberries
4 large egg whites
1 1/4 cup sugar
1 1/2 cups (3 sticks) unsalted butter (room temperature)
1 cup brut champagne

Champagne simple syrup
1/2 cup sugar
1/2 cup brut champagne

Directions
Preheat your oven to 350 degrees F.

Place 1/2 cup of strawberries into a bowl with 1/2 cup of champagne and set aside for approximately 10 minutes.

Combine flour, cake flour, baking powder, and salt; whisk and set aside. In a stand mixer with paddle attachment, cream together butter, sugar, and vanilla. Mix on medium high for about three minutes, or until mixture is light yellow and fluffy. Beat in eggs and white one at a time, making sure each egg is blended into batter before adding the next egg. With the mixer on low, add half of the flour mixture, followed by the milk, and then the other half of the flour mixture. Drain champagne from strawberries and fold the strawberries into your batter.
Divide batter into muffin cups with liners, filling cups about 2/3 full. Bake 25-28 minutes, rotating pans halfway through, until just golden. Allow cupcakes to cool on wire racks for about 10 minutes, and then remove from pans to wire racks to cool completely.

For simple syrup, combine sugar and champagne in a small saucepan. Over medium high heat, stir until sugar is dissolved, about 2 minutes. Reduce heat to medium and simmer, stirring occasionally, until liquid reduces by half and coats the back of a spoon, about 5-8 minutes.
Once cupcakes have cooled, lightly poke the tops of the cupcakes with a toothpick. Use a silicone pastry brush or a liquid dropper, and add syrup (about 1/4 to 1/2 tsp) to the tops of the cupcakes, making sure the cake absorbs the liquid. Don’t over saturate the cupcakes or they’ll be soggy.

For frosting, pour champagne over strawberries and set aside for 20-30 minutes.
Combine egg whites and sugar in a heat-proof bowl over a pot with about 1 cup of simmering water. (You don’t need a lot. Don’t fill up the pot or let the water touch the bowl.) Heat mixture, whisking frequently, until mixture reaches 160 degrees F and sugar has dissolved. (Mixture will look white and somewhat frothy.) Transfer mixture to stand mixer with whisk attachment and beat on medium high for approximately 8 minutes, or until stiff peaks form. Reduce speed to medium and add butter 2 Tbsp at a time, fully incorporating each addition before adding more. If frosting begins to look soupy or separated, beat on medium high for a few minutes until it comes together and looks fluffy.
Drain champagne from strawberries. Place strawberries in a blender and blend until smooth. Add purée in small additions, about 1/3 cup at a time, beating after each addition, until you achieve the taste and consistency you like. (I added all my purée.) Your frosting will look a bit soupy after each purée addition. Simply beat frosting until it comes back together and is light and fluffy.

Frost your cupcakes in whichever way makes you happy!

Source – adapted from Annie’s Eats

Do NOT be intimidated by fancy boutique cupcake shops. You CAN do this at home. It’s easier than it seems. And if it makes you feel better, the top cupcake picture was one of the good ones. Most of mine usually come out looking like they have nipples.

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We Can Twerk it Out

Until today, I had no idea what the word “twerk” meant. Truth be told, I had to look it up on Urban Dictionary. All that changed with all the chatter about Miley Cyrus’s….performance?…on last night’s VMAs. Go ahead and take a minute to watch so you know what we’re talking about. I’ll be here when you’re done throwing up.

Finished? Yeah. I am almost certain that any number of the dancers and band members were up there thinking, FML. Yes, her performance was obscene, insulting to women and eyeballs everywhere, devoid of any musical talent, and will single-handedly send the sale of teddy bears down the drain. (And seriously, if you’re going to motorboat someone’s ass, motorboat someone’s ass. Otherwise, you just look, well, like Miley looked.)

Three minutes of my life I’ll never get back aside, I’m not really all that bothered by her performance. If she wants to flaunt her body and need for attention on stage, that’s her prerogative. What I’m actually bothered by is the song Robin Thicke sang with her, Blurred Lines. Thus far, I’ve seen old articles arguing that it either is or isn’t the song of the summer and whether it’s misogynist or feminist, but I really haven’t seen anyone upset that that song was broadcast to thousands of impressionable teenagers last night. (You know, at least to the ones who could understand what he was singing in the first place.) No one’s upset that calling a woman “the hottest bitch” and insinuating that you’re going to split her ass in two because your dick is that big, (um, gee, can I please get undressed fast enough for that offer?) might be every so slightly objectifying. Calling her an animal who can’t be domesticated and doesn’t need papers? Yes, I get that you’re trying to call her wild, but if the description was any more dehumanizing, she’d be a paramecium. Although, I guess if paramecium love is what does it for you…

All too often we don’t pay attention to the words of the songs we absentmindedly hum in the shower or sing into our hairbrushes. We don’t get angry when the songs playing on the radio, the songs our children will listen to, treat women as nothing more than a commodity to be acquired and screwed. It’s easy to focus on the outrageous woman and dismiss her as trampy, wild, and someone to be laughed at. But the man grinding up on her? He’s an artist.

Back to School

Every so often I have a stress dream about being back in high school. I’m an adult and have graduated, but for some reason I have to go back and take a class for my graduation to count or before I can graduate from college. In my dream, I float along the hazy halls of my old high school, trying to figure out where I need to be. Usually it’s a stress-inducing class, like math or my AP English class. My AP English teacher had thinly veiled contempt for me because of a mistake I made in her English class my freshman year. She outright hated my best friend, with whom I sat in class, and was often my partner in crime to skip that class and choir to go hang out at the mall. When I told my mom after graduation that I had skipped that class, she didn’t blame me.

Rachael is beginning kindergarten next week. Daily, I feel like I’m either going to throw up, birth an anxiety baby, (the head is down and everything!) or have my own John Hurt moment. The anticipation is the worst. I know everything will be fine once we get over the first day hump and have a routine established. Until then, I have all the worrying pent up.
I have the It’s really unlikely worries:
– What if she doesn’t come home on the bus?
– What if she’s kidnapped or molested?
– What if Sandy Hook or Columbine happens at her school and she’s traumatized or taken from me?

I have the It could probably happen worries. She’s really small for her age, wicked smart, tends to have an opinion about things, and marches to the beat of her own drum. (She’s at a pool party today, and rather than join the other kids in playing sharks versus minnows, she would rather keep on with water ballet on her own.) While these are things I really love about her, they are all perfect ingredients for Bullied Soup. Or maybe it’s more of a goulash. Borscht?

When we lived in Ohio, I remember dreading riding the bus. There were two older boys who tortured me by making me look at Garbage Pail Kids cards, whose images can be pretty upsetting to a five year old. In fourth grade, a boy punched me on the playground, and my teacher basically told me to suck it up. At some point in elementary school, my friends tricked me into eating a dog biscuit. My “FRIENDS”! I wasn’t usually invited to parties. I did get to go to the “cool girls” slumber party once, but found out at the party that it was only because someone else couldn’t come. I was an alternate.
I know that all these experiences shaped me into who I am, but I pray Rachael won’t have to endure anything like them. The fact that control is just an illusion and that my role from now on will be that of damage control is slightly terrifying.

Rachael going to school also means that I’m going back to school, too. It will require me to put on my big girl panties and interact with school types and parents….as a confident adult! It could mean trusting someone younger than me to know what they’re doing. It could mean sticking up for my daughter with a teacher who is twice my age when my initial instinct would be to shut up, raise my hand and wait to be called on, and say, Yes, ma’am. It will mean taking a deep breath and walking into that first PTA meeting, getting the pecking order sorted in my mind, and then trying to play nicely with the other girls. (I’m sure I’ve already made a great first impression by chewing out the lifeguard/pool manager at our pool in front of one of the other kindergarten moms/rising K play group coordinator. But, in my defense, he was being a dick and I couldn’t let it go because…principles.) It also means finding the balance between letting Rachael fail, and learning from those failures, and making sure she stays on track. It means making sure, through the fibro fog that clouds my brain, that I stay on top of things like getting lunches made, forms completed, and deadlines met.

The night before my first day of high school, I had an anxiety attack. I paced back and forth in the hall and my bedroom, declaring that I was NOT going. As we stand on the precipice of the rest of Rachael’s education, I try to remain outwardly calm while Rachael bubbles with excitement, ready to jump. But inside I am 14, saying, I’m not going, and you can’t make me!

As far as letting go for my first baby, I believe Michael Gerson puts it more eloquently than I.

Tonight We’re Going to Party Like It’s 2013

This month has been birthday party explosion with sprinkles.  Rachael had a party last weekend, three this weekend, (for four different kids) and one next weekend.  Thank goodness Rachael wasn’t born in August like she was supposed to have been.  (She came on her own a month early.  Stand down, crunchy birthing mamas.)  With each party comes a whirlwind of running, screaming kids, good food, adults who don’t know each other making small talk, making time stand still with the help of iPhones and DSLRs, and faces smeared with icing.  Being an introvert, these parties can be hard for me, (I figure I’ll need a week to recover from this weekend) but I love seeing how these celebrations come together.  I have no shame in admitting that I will totally use as inspiration appropriate steal elements of parties which work well.

In the last week, I’ve seen a few articles/blog posts talking about getting back to simplicity in children’s birthday parties.  Some talk about it in the first person, while others entreat others to calm the fuck down.  I know that I’m one of those moms who needs to take a beat.  God knows Mike would be happier if I did.  When I read these posts, my initial response was to get defensive.  It’s possible the words “cunt punt” came to mind.  (I am forever indebted to the sorority chick who used that term.  It’s a fucking masterpiece.  Mwah!)  But the more I thought about it, the more I decided that it might be wise to actually examine why I do what I do.

1) 30 Rock Fight Club

(30 Rock is one of my favorite shows of ever, so get used to the references.  If you haven’t seen the glory that it is, stop what you’re doing and watch it on Netflix.  Do it now!)

In the episode, Jackie Jormp-Jomp, Liz Lemon is placed on leave for sexual harassment.  Bored out of her skull, she ends up spending time with a group of highly educated, unemployed by choice women in her building.  As it turns out, these ladies who lunch have a secret: they have a Fight Club.  With no outlet for their creative energy, they channel it into beating the ever loving shit out of each other.

We know that energy cannot be destroyed, only transferred or transformed.  When I stopped working, my creative energy needed to go somewhere.  I was no longer able to write letters in “bitchy business”, requesting a court order for the 5 millionth time.  I was no longer asked to help put together work parties where the same people always complained.  So clearly, the next logical conclusion for channeling energy was cake.  It’s one of the lesser known subpoints of the Law of Conservation.

Jane Austen Fight Club.  You’re welcome, internet!

2) I’m a scaredy cat

I don’t like failure.  I have a tendency not to attempt things if I think I’m going to fail.  But I’m trying to change that.  One of my fears of failure is in the culinary realm.  I have a tendency to shy away from recipes that look like they’ll be too hard or from foods I’ve never cooked before.  Part of the reason I end up trying to do something others might consider crazy or over the top is because of the challenge of it.  I’m trying to learn and grow.  I just want to see if I can do it.  Sometimes there are major failures, like the time I ate grilled cheese and jelly beans for dinner because I ruined our Easter lamb chops and eggplant ricotta napoleons.  “Ah ha!” you say.  “But people never post/talk about their failures!”  False!  I talk about my failures all the time.  I posted on Facebook about that Easter dinner.  I have shown pictures of cakes that deflated because they were still raw in the middle.  People have seen my bandaged hands from epic pumpkin separation failures.  But I also would like to share my triumphs.  No one gets all up in arms because someone completed a marathon and tweeted about it.  No one feels like someone is a fucking show off for becoming a published author.  People who plan events or make cakes for parties for a living aren’t crazy people who want attention.  Why is this different?

3) It’s all about me AND making others happy

We didn’t have a lot growing up.  My dad was a pastor for the first seven years of my life, and we didn’t have double income until my mom started working when I was about 10.  I had a few birthday parties, but not too many.  Big parties were extras. Don’t get me get me wrong, my parents always made sure that we celebrated.  I had my Baskin Robbins mint chocolate chip ice cream pie and felt loved.  But if I’m honest, I do wish that I had had the parties that we’ve thrown and that I’ve been to for our friend’s children.  By that, I don’t mean that I wish for the best cake or largest moon bounce.  (Okay, 10 year old me does think a moon bounce would be pretty cool.)  I miss the community, adults and children coming together and having that camaraderie.  So I guess I am indulging some childhood fantasy.  You caught me.

But I also like to make others happy.  I have a little Monica Geller inside who likes playing hostess and making sure everyone has a good time.  I have friends with dietary restrictions.  It thrills me when I am able to accommodate their needs.  I have a tendency to go overboard with food to make sure everyone gets what they need.  I am learning to scale back the more I do this.  I know I tend to do too much, and that sometimes I do need to calm the fuck down.

I also love the reactions my girls have.  When Rachael, without prompting, says thank you for her party; when she and Zoe squeal with delight over their cakes; when Rachael wants to get involved and help because she’s so excited; when they gasp because they think the decorations are beautiful, it just melts my heart and makes me want to give them the world.

4) I come by it honestly

The apple doesn’t fall far from the tree.  My mom also likes planning and executing things, whether they be for parties, church events, or just decorating for Christmas.

Fortunately, I have inherited some of my father’s laid back personality, so when the creative flood of ideas come into my mind, Ooo, we could totally make a giant mast and sail and attach it to the deck to make it look like the deck of a pirate ship!, the practical and chronically fatigued side battles back with a resounding Aw, fuck it.  So you see, it could be worse!  Mwahahahahahaha!

(And can I just say, my mother has yet to throw a bad party.)

So there they are, the reasons why I do what I do.  Maybe they’re not good reasons, but they’re my reasons.  And don’t worry.  I judge people for the parties they throw, too.  People who hire clowns are fucking crazy!