Thursday, May 17, 2012

My Toddler Still Likes "Baby Food"

Boy 2 is my youngest.

He is my baby.

He is almost two (next week to be exact).

And, he still LOVES his fruit puree.

Boy 2, is a fan of fruit purees. It's one of his favorite things to eat. He eats "big people food" to but, everyday he likes a little fruit puree for a snack. So everyday I gladly open a package, squirt it into a bowl, and let him enjoy it.  And, sometimes I just let him suck it out of the package.

I get asked more than I ever thought I would, "Isn't he too old for that?" or "Are you really still feeding your toddler baby food?"

Yes, YES I AM!

Stop judging me.

I'm sure most of us still feed our children applesauce. Heck we probably eat it ourselves. So why is applesauce acceptable but not other fruit purees? It just seems stupid to me.

I feed my boys, both of them, purees from Oh Baby Foods

Oh Baby Foods is a local company that provides 100% organic foods, made from regionally-raised ingredients grown 100% by US farmers. It's good for my boys. It's good for my community, and our Country's farmers.

Oh Baby Foods currently offer 6 super yummy "meals for babies"

Peachy Keen, Basil Babe, Pearfecto, Wise Punkin, LavenBerry, and AmazeMint

Boy 2 is a HUGE fan and his big brother, Boy 1, is five and he still likes them to!

So, I'm just going to sit back and take the judgement while my boys eat their all natural 100% organic"baby food"

Come On and Sing It With Me Car Wash! Get With The Feelin' Y'all Car Wash Yeah

(You're singing the song now aren't you?)

I went to wash the van this morning.

I had the boys with me and apparently they had their ears were turned on.

As I gave my gift card to the attendant  (yes I had a gift card to the car wash) I say, somewhat under my breath I thought, hope this is worth $12.

He gives me suckers for the boys and says "put it in neutral, no brakes, no hands, no wipers, and the vacuums are free." 

We go through the car wash, I take full advantage of the free vacuums and as I'm hanging up the vacuum an attendant walks by us.  

Boy 1 looks at him and says "these suckers and the free vacuums almost make it worth the $12." 

He is so my child.

Wednesday, May 16, 2012

Talking Lunch With Boy 1. He's 5.

Me, "What do you want for lunch?"

Boy 1, "Um, how about a grilled cheese."

Me, "Ok. Go sit down and I'll make you one."

Boy 1, "Mom? I don't want like a regular grilled cheese. Can you better it up with some avocado?"

Me, "I don't have any avocado we ate it the other night with dinner."

Boy 1, "Not cool Mom, not cool!"

Bragging Rights

I've got to give the Dad and myself a few pats on the back. It seems that throughout the craziness that is our life of wrangling 5 children, we must be doing something right.

Last month I told you all about Daughter 1 being asked to prom, the week of prom, by a senior boy who found himself without his previous date.

Daughter 1 was excited but cautiously hopeful in her preparation. (We aren't raising naive children around here.) In fact she was so cautiously hopeful that she didn't allow herself to get excited till 9 am the morning of the prom as I sat to do her manicure.

Don't worry, she didn't get stood up or anything. She went and had a good time and more importantly followed all the rules we had laid out.

In preparation for the big event we had the boy over for dinner. We expressed our concern with the timing of things and how it might be perceived and where that would fall on our daughter. He assured her, and us that things weren't exactly friendly with his ex-girlfriend/prom date but, that things were definitely done and in an ok place. So we allowed her to go and have since  kept a close eye on the friendship/high school relationship.

So here's were the bragging and patting on the backs begin.

Today, Daughter 1 sent me a string of text messages:

Text 1. "He's not over her."

Text 2. "Don't worry I'm not sad or anything. I'm mad."

Text 3. "I deserve better than that."

Text 4. "So does she."

Text 5. "By the way I got a 94% on my Biology semester test."

As I read my daughter's first message my heart began to hurt for her but, before I could text her back and say something mommy-like she sends the second and then the third.

By the third message I was smiling. "I deserve better than that."

She had been listening. She had been hearing us as we told her nightly we loved her and she deserved the world. She knows it's the truth.

As a Momma there are countless dreams and hopes I have for my children. Self respect and awareness is problem on the top of the list. To witness my 16 year old little girl define her worth is amazing. She is wise. She is kind. She is beautiful. She is loved. And, she knows it.


Points for the Momma and the Dad we ARE doing something right.

Tuesday, May 8, 2012

Lather Up! Leather Doesn't Look Good On Any One

May in National Melanoma Awareness Month and as a 14 year survivor I always love an opportunity to push sun safety on everyone.

When I was 16 years old I was diagnosed with Superficial Spreading Melanoma.

"Superficial spreading melanoma is by far the most common type, accounting for about 70 percent of all cases. This is the one most often seen in young people. As the name suggests, this melanoma grows along the top layer of the skin for a fairly long time before penetrating more deeply."

I had a freckle appear on the inside of my arm, along my elbow. At first I thought nothing of it. I've had lots or freckles. They kind of come with the territory when you spend every waking moment you can outside. As summer went on and school started, I started thinking it looked like it was getting bigger. But, I just chalked that up to me seeing things.

During  my "Well Child" physical my doctor noticed it. He asked me if that mole had always looked like that? Mole? Last I checked it was a tiny little freckle. I told him my freckle had appeared sometime during the summer but, that we hadn't really thought much of it. He immediately called for my mother to come into the room and explained to her that things looked very irregular around the boarder of my once freckle, now mole, and said we need to have it biopsied.

"The first sign is the appearance of a flat or slightly raised discolored patch that has irregular borders and is somewhat asymmetrical in form. The color varies, and you may see areas of tan, brown, black, red, blue or white. This type of melanoma can occur in a previously benign mole. The melanoma can be found almost anywhere on the body, but is most likely to occur on the trunk in men, the legs in women, and the upper back in both."

A few days later we headed to the dermatologist. Nervous, scared, but, hopeful it was nothing. The dermatologist agreed that it looked rather irregular and that a biopsy was necessary.

He had my mother sign some more paper work, and then numbed my arm and took what looked like a miniature post hole digger to my elbow and removed the entire freckle-mole-totallynowscary-thingy from my skin.

At check out the nurse assured us not to worry, and reminded us that no news was always good news, saying 'If you don't hear from us in the next two weeks, forget all about it."

4 days in I was still feeling fairly confident that it was nothing more than another weird freckle. Imagine my surprise when on the 5th day we got a phone call asking us to come back into to the dermatologist's office.

"Superficial Spreading Melanoma" he said. "We need to remove some more tissue and make sure nothing has spread."

That statement is still one of the most terrifying things I have ever heard.

Luckily for me, nothing had spread. Everything was gone, and the skin cancer had been completely removed.

Since turning 16 I have had skin checks every 3 to 6 months depending on any weird changes happening to the freckles or moles on my body. I have had ungodly amounts of biopsies; usually they come back fine, but other times they come back as dysplastic.

"DYSPLASTIC NEVI (atypical moles) are unusual benign moles that may resemble melanoma. People who have them are at increased risk of developing single or multiple melanomas. The higher the number of these moles someone has, the higher the risk; those who have 10 or more have 12 times the risk of developing melanoma compared to the general population. Dysplastic nevi are found significantly more often in melanoma patients than in the general population"

After every biopsy I wait with baited breath in fear of a phone call saying "We need you to come back into the office" With every mole that comes back as dyplastic, my fear goes up, as well as my desire to tell people to cover up.

I don't care if "tan fat looks better" being alive looks a WHOLE LOT better to me.

Protect yourself, protect your children. You can prevent melanoma. Sunscreen is a lot cheaper than quarterly skin checks, biopsies, more invasive surgeries, or a funeral.

We Got Our Tonka On

Saturday afternoon Boy 1, Boy 2, myself, and the Grandmother headed to the John Q. Hammons Center for the Junior League of Northwest Arkansas' Touch A Truck event. It was "The best field trip ever!" according to Boy1.

When we got there we went right to the Tonka play center. It was awesome. They had sand boxes with Tonka trucks in them, Tonka tents, hard hats & vest for pictures, balls to play with, balloons, and Tonka mats for playing with even more Tonka trucks. My boys probably played there for 30 minutes before they were ready to go explore some of the big trucks.

I loved that the Tonka play center was located right by all the big construction equipment. My boys went from playing with a dump truck to exploring IN a dump truck. Brilliant.

For roughly 2.5 hours my boys climbed in and out of bucket trucks, tanks, school buses, cement trucks, semis, backhoes, dump trucks, police cars, firetrucks, swat trucks, and just about every other possible vehicle or service equipment known to man. They sat on motor-cylces, ate popsicles, learned about fire safety, shot a BB gun, had their faces painted, played in sand, played in dirt, played in rice, and painted pictures. They were given treats from various vendors and sponsors; candy, frisbees, rubber bracelets, coloring sheets, pencils, stickers, and temporary tattoos.

For roughly 2.5 hours on Saturday my boys were treated as if they were "King of the World" and they were allowed to act as such.

For roughly 2.5 hours my boys laughed, squealed, clapped their hands, jumped up in down in excitement, and sat in amazement.

Thank you to the Junior League of Northwest Arkansas, Tonka, and all the working men and women of Northwest Arkansas for bringing Touch a Truck to my boys. Thank you for giving Boy 1 "the best field trip ever!'

Monday, May 7, 2012

She'll Need A Dress, My Listen To Your Mother Piece

Everyone knows now.  The phone hasn't stopped ringing, and knocks on the door keep coming.  I'm not in the mood for sympathy from others.  Maybe my lack of sleep is to blame, maybe I just don't want to hear it'll be ok, or feel someone else's arms around me.  My focus today is solely finding what my Momma will wear.

It's close to 11 now, and the funeral director has called (again) asking for the clothing, wondering what we have planned for her to wear.  This part should be easy, my mother always talked about what she wanted to be buried in.  I've known since I was 7 exactly what she wanted.

“When I die, you better put me in the best red dancing dress you can find. AND heels! I have to have heels on. I'll need to have my Charlie on and don't forget red panties"
My mother knew what my dad liked, and she wanted to go out still catching his eye and ready to dance the night away.

So why is this so hard?  Hell, it's February; finding a red dress should be easy.

It's 1, and if I don't go now I never will.  I gather my belongings, kiss my baby girl goodbye and head to the department store.  As I'm browsing the racks of dresses a happy little sales girl says "Can I help you find something? Are you looking for a dress for a valentine date? Have you seen these?"  Shit!  Now I know why I didn't want to do this; people, people asking questions, staring at you waiting for answers, filling the already awkward silence with even more questions.  I guess I have to acknowledge her but, what do I say? Clearing my throat I say, "I'm just looking, but thank you.  I'll let you know if I need anything."

Back to the racks I come across a dress.  It's satin, has tiny roses on the top, an empire waist, and spaghetti straps.  It also has a matching cardigan and since I've been directed by the funeral home her outfit must have sleeves this is perfect.  I make my way to the under wear department where I find red lace panties that perfectly match the dress. Onto shoes; without many options I settle for a pair of strappy red heels.

I make my way to the register and here is the sales girl I have been trying so hard to avoid.  "Did you find everything you need?" (GREAT more questions) "Yes" I say.  "What's the special occasion, Valentine's day?"  She's staring, waiting. God, why am I not a better liar?  "My mother passed away.  I'm buying her funeral clothes."   Silence...

Driving to the funeral home I feel a bit of relief.  I have one more thing done, one less thing to worry about.  In the parking lot I find myself clutching the dress as if it's the last piece of my mother I will ever hold.  How do I do this? How do I hand off of the outfit my mother will be buried in?  Why, at 19 years old am I even here?  This isn't fair.

As I hand over the clothing the director says "This is want you want her to wear?"  "Yes," I say.  "It is going to be open casket, and a traditional Catholic Mass right?" she says while looking at the stuff I've brought.”  Oh here, we won't need these shoes, or these panties; Honey we don't really dress them from head to toe" she continues.  "But," I mange to squeak out, "It's what she wanted.  It's what she always wanted.  She wants to meet my Dad again how she met him before; in a red dancing dress.  I have to make sure she gets this."

I have to make sure she gets this.  I need this.  I need to believe in this, as long as she gets this, she will be reunited with my dad how she wanted.  I will have done this one thing to prove I love her and she will know.  She will know that she is important and she is loved, by me.

I picked this one insignificant detail to focus on because it was easier than thinking about the only person I felt had ever loved me was gone.  The only person capable of loving me so wholly and unconditionally was gone.

Now what?  I'm only 19.

I'm only 19 and now, I'm my own mother.

Listen To Your Mother, Why It Mattered To Me

Listen To Your Mother has come but I wouldn't say it's gone.

On Sunday April 29th I took the stage at Walton Arts Center with 13 beautiful and talented women.

All of us are at different points in our lives, all of us with different stories, all of us are new to this whole LTYM thing, and all of us are now closer than ever before.

For me LTYM was about honoring my mother one more time. It was a chance to feel like I had done something right. Like I hadn't failed her.

You see, my piece, She'll Need a Dress, was me telling the story of finding the clothing of which to bury her in. The circumstances in life leading up to such event have made who I am today. As well as a little uneasy with and unprepared for the emotions that came with telling my story.

When my Momma passed away I was only 19, newly 19 at that. It was a fairly regular Sunday. Except that my Momma was tired. Very tired. I had asked her numerous times if she felt ok, or needed to go to the doctor. Each time I woke her or questioned her she assured me everything was fine, she was just tired.

As the day went on and turned into evening I woke her up for dinner. She didn't want to eat, so I again asked if she wanted to go to the doctor. Again she said she was fine just really tired.

I started to watch a movie and time got away from me. Before I knew it, it was after 9 p.m. I went to wake my Momma up one more time, and in that instant my life changed forever. I opened her bedroom door and said "Momma" she didn't respond so I said it louder, still nothing. I went to shake her a tad and when I did I discovered her body was lifeless.

I screamed and I tried with everything in me to revive her. 911 was called and paramedics and police came from out of nowhere. I continued to try to revive her. Paramedics told me there was nothing else we could do but, I didn't want to believe them. I begged, and begged for them to bring my Momma back but, it was too late.

I have forever felt like I failed her. I didn't wake her in time. I didn't try hard enough to revive her. I always wonder if I had done just one more repetition if it would have mattered.

Listen To Your Mother gave me a moment in time to do it right. To honor the woman she was, and to honor her memory. Her legacy is all I have left of her and I wanted to do it justice.

As I took the stage last Sunday, the emotions started to take over. I realized about the time Stephanie said my name to the audience that I really might not be ready for this.

When I began to speak the tears started to fall. Lucky for me we had the greatest audience anyone could ask for. They opened their hearts to me as I not so eloquently poured out mine.

I gave them a tiny piece of me and they gave me pieces of their hearts in return.

Together we cried, we laughed, and we cried some more. Together.

For a moment in time all the Mommas in the world were holding me tight.

For a moment in time I didn't feel alone in my burdens.

(photographers courtsey of Megan Clemence Photography)

Friday, May 4, 2012

Sweet 16, Homemade Strawberry Shortcake

Well the homemade shortcake muffins came out much better than expected.

All that's missing is the yummy strawberries and some cool-whip.

Oh, now that's more like it.

I'd say that's strawberry shortcake worth serving for a sweet 16 birthday. Wouldn't you?

Who's Hungry

Homemade strawberry shortcake in the works for Daughter 1's 16th birthday.

I like to put a little coconut rum in with my strawberries; it helps bring the flavor out.

(and it's a great excuse to visit the liquor store)

Thursday, May 3, 2012

Will They Ever Learn

The Dad is at band practice.

The kiddos are all asleep.

I was going to clean up our kitchen and finish up some of the kids' chores...


But, then I went to the fridge to pour myself a glass of tea.

This is what I found.

I probably don't need to tell you that I am not cleaning our kitchen, I am not finishing up some of the kids' chores. 

I am planning my next move. Hope they're hungry but, only expect a bite.

Help Your Neighbor, Help Yourself

It’s that time of year. Local Farmer’s Markets all over Northwest Arkansas are in full spring (ha ha). Yummy! I love shopping at the Farmer’s Markets. You can get so much more for your money, plus you’re supporting your neighbors and your community as a whole.

Did I mention you get MORE for your money? Well, you do.

Farmer’s Markets became a second home to me once I was in college, and could no longer simply run over to my Godparents’ garden for dinner. You see, in addition to taking me to the Cattleman’s Associations’ pie auctions, they also tried to teach me early on how to nurture and grow a fruitful garden. Well, in my case, how to work in their big oh vegetable garden. Every year my Godfather worked the land just to the side of his house into the most beautiful garden I had ever seen. I honestly don’t know a vegetable he didn’t plant and successfully harvest. One thing I wish he could’ve given to me was his green thumb. I’m somewhat lacking in that area. Lucky for me though, some people aren’t and those people bring fresh produce to the Farmer’s Market every week. I take full advantage of them. Oops I mean "that." You should as well. I promise they won’t mind.

A favorite vegetable around here is asparagus. We love it; can’t get enough of it. This year the asparagus is early and in demand. Once it’s gone, it’s gone. (Thanks Mother Nature.) Knowing there will be large amounts of asparagus now, I decided I’d share a recipe with you that might take it from being on the side, to being the main dish.

Ever thought about an asparagus pasta salad?


Kitchen things you need:

A stove top

A pot large enough for cooking the pasta

A large saucepan

Some water

A strainer as I call it but, I guess most call them a colander

A stove top and a kitchen sink

A cutting board

A sharp knife

A large bowl

A serving spoon

Ingredients wise you’ll need:

1 pound fresh asparagus from your favorite Farmer’s Market. You want to cut it into 1-1/2-inch pieces.

1 package (16 ounces) Rigatoni. I like to use the "garden style", cooked and drained.

1 cup of cooked chicken diced up.

1 cup of cooked ham diced up.

2 medium tomatoes; you can get these at the Farmer’s Market to. You want these seeded and chopped.

1/2 cup sliced ripe olives (This is optional. I’m not an olive lover, but the rest of family members are, and they say you can’t have a pasta salad without olives. Plus they out number me.)

1-1/2 cups zesty Italian dressing

1-1/2 teaspoons dill weed

Once your pasta is cooked and drained and your veggies are washed and cut up the fun starts.

You want to put your fresh asparagus in a large saucepan with just enough water to cover it.

You’re just going to cook it until it’s a crisp-tender. Drain and then let it cool.

Once the asparagus has cooled, grab that large bowl and serving spoon.

You want to combine the asparagus with all the remaining ingredients; then toss to coat. (If you happen to have one of those lovely salad bowl/lid combos I recommend you snap the lid on and shake it about to really mix it up.)

This isn’t a salad you can serve immediately. You need to cover it and refrigerate it for at least 3-4 hours; overnight is even better.

Remember, if you kill everything you try to grow, it’s ok. Some people out there are lucky enough to have green thumbs. Others, like us, are lucky those green thumbed neighbors bring their produce to the Farmer’s Market weekly.

(This story and recipe was written for my column "Madison County Cooking" published by The Madison County Record, May 2012)

Wednesday, May 2, 2012

You Did What?!?

So, Sunday while I was gone being a superstar in Listen To Your Mother and the Dad was along to support me, our daughters stayed home with the younger kids. They are 16 and almost 13 and they are pros at helping out with the little ones so I wasn't really worried.

Plus, are neighbors are awesome and always keep an eye out without letting the big girls know.

I checked in with the girls while I was backstage waiting for LTYM to start and just like I thought Daughter 1 said everything was fine. The littlest one had just woke up from a nap so she was going to make him a peanut butter roll up. (It's one of his favorite things) Alright I said and reminded them all, through her, that I loved them.

The Dad checked in with the girls multiple times via text before the show started and after. Each time he got a reply about how great things were going.

No need to worry right?!?


When we got home, I walked through the door and was greeted with several high pitch squeals and hugs, and then I noticed my baby's hair.

"WHAT DID YOU DO?" I questioned. "WHY?" "Why is your baby brother's hair?" "Why is your brother's hair PURPLE?"

Yes, you read that right. They dyed my precious baby boy's hair purple!!

Now, before you go and call anyone, it wasn't permanent. It wasn't even semi permanent. It was the kind you brush in with a mascara brush that comes out without even washing the hair.

Still, the dyed my baby's hair purple!

I bet they were hoping I'd freak out and say something crazy like "You're never babysitting again." Boy, were they wrong. I see a lot of diapers in their future. :)

Tuesday, May 1, 2012

A Field Trip Worth Taking

This morning while I was working the calendar up, and listing out all the school trips and events our girls have in the next couple of weeks, Boy 1 says to me, "Momma, when do I get to go on a field trip?"

Hmm, I thought to myself. This is harder than it seems. Here is this sweet and inquisitive little boy looking up at me with these huge puppy dog brown eyes; watching me write his sisters names over and over again on the big family calendar wondering if I'm going to ever write his name on a square.

He wasn't whining when he asked, he wasn't complaining, or jealous. We haven't taught him that level of selfishness yet. He was genuinely asking.

I said, "Well q-pie lets see what we can find. All these trips are for your girls, that's how he refers to his sisters, and they go while they are at school, so we can't go to any of these"

"Well, we should play school and go somewhere to" he says to me.

Yep, I'm raising some pretty quick kids around here.

Luckily for me, I know a few people, most of those people know a lot more people, and most of us have Facebook. I've seen a couple of my friends had "joined" a " Touch A Truck" event, meaning they were planning on attending, but, I hadn't really thought much about it.

I was busy being a superstar in LTYM remember?

But now I was thinking about it, so the FB stalking commenced.

While stalking my friend Lela's page I saw a post she had shared highlighting the Touch A Truck event. Turns out the event is THIS Saturday, May 5th, 2012, well before any of the girls' school trips. I also found out this is the 6th annual event here, which means these people know what they're doing. Plus it's right down the road from Grandmother's house, it's at the John Q. Hammons Center. I'm thinking WINNER WINNER CHICKEN DINNER!!

So, I kept on reading and discovered this event is so much more than just climbing in and out of big trucks. Some of the vehicles kids can explore include construction trucks, emergency vehicles, motorcycles, tractor-trailers and boats. Not everything has wheels.

Also, there will be an awesome Tonka Play Center setup right next to the BIG construction equipment, filled with sandboxes, trucks, play tents, balloons, fun photo ops, and goodies they plan on giving away. It's every little kids dream "field trip".

Plus, Tusk, the Arkansas Razorbacks hog, will travel from his home in Dardanelle for kids to see, and that alone deserves a WOOOOO PIG SOOIE!!

There will be face painting, bouncy houses, a Home Depot sponsored building project, Daisy BB Gun target practice, performances by other local kids, AND safety demonstrations so kids can get to know more about the public workers that serve and protect them, and are there to help.

Strike the Arkansas Naturals Baseball team mascot will be there, plus other Razorback mascots, and even the Chick-fil-a Cow. All ready and waiting to pose for pictures with the kiddos.

AND, as if that's not enough, they even thought about food! There will be a full concession stand offering hot dogs, hamburgers, ice cream and all the other yummy goodies you're hoping for.

BONUS!! Tickets are only $5.00 a piece or $20.00 for a family and proceeds benefit the Junior League of Northwest Arkansas mission of promoting voluntarism, developing the potential of women, and improving communities through the effective action and leadership of trained volunteers.

I think we just found our Field Trip. How about you?!?