Saturday, March 28

Chicken noodle soup: take two!

Last week there were a few seriously gloomy, wet n' sloppy days after an early warm gorgeous [and addictive] Spring day. The tease of mother nature inspired me to make some soup, but I was in the mood for something crave when the weather makes my joints ache: vietnamese pho [pronounced fuh].

Pho is delicious and has so many layers of flavor and I cannot get enough of it when it's cold. So this Fall, when I tried a Rachael Ray taste-alike recipe I fell in love with the possibility I could make something similar to pho at home. Not the same, but very similar. The key ingredient to the flavor in this dish is the ginger [duh] and the Chinese five spice powder. If you make this DO try to locate the powder, because it is difficult to duplicate at home a la Martha Stewart style. Also, it's not listed in the original RR recipe, but I use fresh cilantro as a garnish and I think it adds more to the overall flavor.

Ginger Vegetable Chicken Noodle Bowl
[serves 4 very large portions]
2 T vegetable oil
1 lb boneless skinless chicken tenders/breast/thigh cut into bite-size pieces
4 garlic cloves, minced/grated
1 [2-inch] piece ginger, peeled and cut into thin matchsticks or grated
1 cup shredded carrot
Salt & Pepper
2 teaspoons ground cumin
2 teaspoons Chinese five spice powder
6 cups chicken stock
1/2 lb vermicelli [i.e. thin spaghetti]
4 scallions, cut into 2 1/2 inch lengths then cut into matchsticks 2 cups fresh crisp bean sprouts [do not try using canned... they are slimy, salty and mushy!]

Cilantro, chopped [optional]

Heat a medium sized pot over med-high heat and add the vegetable oil. Add the chicken, and cook until lightly browned, or about 3 minutes. Next, stir in the garlic and ginger. Add the carrots, season with salt and pepper, and add the cumin and five-spice powder.
Add the stock and bring soup to a boil. Drop in the vermicelli and decrease heat to a simmer and cook for 3 minutes.

Lastly, add the scallions and bean sprouts. Turn off the heat and let the soup stand for 5 minutes. Adjust seasonings, garnish with cilantro [if using] and serve.

Nothing can make you feel better than the cliche hot bowl of soup. Well maybe a cosmo can do the trick [for me]. Or a day on the beach [for me]. Or a massage. Okay maybe no other comfort food can make you feel better like the affects of a hot bowl of soup. Next time, give this Asian inspired noodle bowl a try and I promise you will come back for more.

Tuesday, March 24

Quips from a SAHM

If you're rereading that title sounding out SAHM, then perhaps you should read past this post to find something more applicable to you. I'm not making lofty assumptions, but it would be safe to say if that acronym is over your head, this entry will probably induce a yawn session. SAHM spills over into a world of domestic engineering, or otherwise known as a stay at home mom.

Perhaps it should be SAHP: stay at home parents seems to have a bit less of a gender bias.

Nonetheless, I recently became irritated [not that this is anything new], when someone commented on my assumed oodles of free time as a director of stay at home affairs.

As I wrote a few weeks ago, I have joined Facebook and in light of that, I have caught up with many former classmates. As I might have ventured before registering I have rekindled feelings, both good and borderline irritating, concerning some of my former equals. I made the error of commenting on my wall one day last week how glad I was to have my computer back in a working condition, and that low and behold I was connected to the world wide web once more. Technology is great, but when it turns against me, I take a short drive to crazy town.

To this comment, a friend inquired what I "do" besides the internet these days, with the full understanding I am at home with my kids.

This, is the be all end all statement that gets under my skin like nothing else. Prior to this tornado of a life as mom, I worked in a semi-chaotic corporate setting.

I had deadlines. I had a business card; although I could make one again, I don't know that I want to advertise surrogate motherhood any time soon. I had a desk, my own private extension, and secretly felt important to be paged on the intercom [unless it was my boss in which case I was a sitting duck]. Daily, I wore dramatic stiletto heels that give me painstaking cramps in my calves now after wearing them to, I don't know, get the mail. I made press releases and drafted business correspondences or marketing proposals for review of executives. I created streamlined presentations given throughout the state by our executive branch. My creative juices flowed freely, and I ate up the notion that I played a vital role in their creative department. There were nights I would get home only to scarf a salad, shower and get up at 5:30am only to do it all over again with pleasure.

With a pat on my back, and a paycheck wired to my account every other week I saw the fruits of my labor on a regular, or at least occasional basis. [I need not recount the instances I took a quick rest on the hot seat. It wasn't all glory.] But at least when I spoke to people outside of my profession, I wasn't questioned. I never confronted, "So, no, really. What do you do all day?"

My kids don't thank me for changing their diapers or fixing them baked oatmeal. I don't earn brownie points for reading to them, though I know this will pay for itself in the future. A monthly bonus doesn't fall into my lap for making certain the bathrooms don't smell like a urinal, or that the tumbling dust bunnies are vacuumed on a weekly basis. I do receive pats on the back for the weekly Rachael Ray delights, but really I won't be adding any of this to my working resume.

On a side note, I am in no way knocking the working moms. Because all that I do with my two toddlers [29 and 15 months young], I am puzzled to imagine how I could possibly function while also operating an adult, non-mommy related, brain cell. Something for me, or for my family, would suffer. I know how curt I was at times while I was working, and step-mommying, and later pregnant while step-mommying and coaching and being a wife, etc. It was crazy, and I know that some women can master that; I, however, was not up for the challenge.

But this, too, is crazy. Prior to my kids' boisterous awakening, I rise at 5am to get to the gym where I complete a rigorous 60 minute cardio slash weight lifting work out before Jason goes to school to teach by seven. From the time my kids are pounding their wooden cribs at 7:30am ravenous for food, they are on edge like little wind up toys and don't stop until lunch is over and scattered among the linoleum kitchen floor roughly by 1pm. After I get them settled for a nap I clean up, make a half-attempt at lunch for myself, and thereafter I prep dinner which then usually leaves me about an hour or so of uninterrupted time to myself if I don't have laundry to fold, bills to pay, furniture to dust, floors to mop, dishes to put away, shirts to iron, bathtubs to sanitize, rooms to vacuum, or toilets to defunk.

Until you become a parent you have no understanding how much that time of solace is to survival, and so be it if take an hour to peruse the internet or write a blog entry for all six of my readers to enjoy. Before I can breathe another second the boys are up and ready for more action by 3:30pm. In rare form, since they are refreshed with the energy reserves of marathon runners, ready to conquer the basement in search of another toy explosion until dinner time when Jason usually walks in the door. The energy levels kick up a notch at the sight of Dah-DEE and they are wild like banshees until 8pm after which point, Jason and I collapse on the family room chairs and exhale in relief for having made it through another draining day after shutting their bedroom door for the night. Aside from that, half of the week we increase our parental stamina after the toddlers are in bed to get Justine, our resident teenager, through the rest of the day with the remaining amount of tact, love and patience we reserved for her.

I need not validate with the other at home parents how draining this job is, and how downright undermining it can be at times. Do I really need to validate my life at home? I suppose not. I knew before taking this job offer that motherhood at home 24/7/365 can be a thankless job at best. It's demoralized by ignorant twits who scoff at the idea of it being anything remotely difficult.

But, ya know what? To each their own. Each of us working humans face the difficulties on the job, and while I don't see professional careers on the domestic front becoming slightly prestigious any time soon I have to say that I have respect for myself. When the latest headlines these days relate to how many more billions of dollars corporate giants are managing to smuggle away from the little guy, I have to say that raising a new generation of kids is a mighty fine gig.

Thursday, March 19

Crazy guacamole cravings

While I realize some people don't appreciate the delicious addictive spread of guacamole, I have become increasingly hooked on it since my brother and sister-in-law have become residents of the most delectable Texas town: Austin.

They've lived there for four years now, although with my mushy mom of a brain I could certainly be way off base. Regardless, the foods of Austin are awesome, and as it nears the ten o' clock hour and I head off to bed, I normally tend to fantasize of wonderful snacks I know I will not eat right upon going to bed [and getting up for the gym at five am-- those late night snacks earn you every last one of those five pounds that refuse melt away].

So with that in mind, I'd like to pass on a recipe for some serious kick-ass guacamole if I do say so myself... to eat -ya know- in the normal dining hours of the day. It's mostly inspired in part by my bro, but I have read up on a couple of guacamole recipes and adopted a tip to add chilled cerveza to the mix and I must say it makes a delish difference.

Without any further adieu:

2 large or 3-4 small hass avocados, pitted [obviously. did i need to write that?]
1 small onion, grated or minced
1-2 cloves garlic, grated or minced
1 plum tomato, minced
1 jalapeno, seeded and minced
1 lime, juiced
Cilantro, large handful finely chopped
Salt & Pepper to taste
1 T beer [optional]
Hot sauce [optional]

Mash the avocados in a large bowl. Don't be afraid to "git in there and git messy" as Josh would say in his nearly southern Texan drawl. Oy. Next, I like to use a microplane to grate the onion and garlic so you have the taste without the chunks. Add the tomato, jalapeno, cilantro, lime juice and remaining optional ingredients. Season with S&P to taste.

Serve this up with tortilla chips to your heart's content. I never met a bowl of guacamole that I didn't like and didn't disappear in a long weekend.

Keep those mints handy post-guacamole as the gah-lic and onions will keep away most humans.

In which case, you have all the more reason to eat UP on this goodness if you want your children to leave you alone long enough to indulge on the fruits of your labor and then some.


Tuesday, March 17

Lip rings, motocross and other reasons I don't want my boys to grow up


It's been long over due to write, but my computer has become my ultimate nemesis depriving me of my only private time to write and has all but blown up its useless microchips on the basement floor. In fact I wish it would. At least then I would have physical evidence to prove our need to purchase a Mac.

Over the past week or so I've continued to reinforce the notion of how elated I am that I have two tiring, drain-the-energy-reserves-out-of-me-before-I-even-crawl-out-of-bed toddlers.

Last weekend I went out for a drink with some friends, and while we danced around small talk at a casual birthday bash for a newbie-21-er, I made note of the wallflowers scattered around the room who were somehow related to the birthday girl. The boys, older than her, were the epitome the art school stereotype. The long, shaggy hair, and black skinny pants tighter than my own might I add. A Pink Floyd shirt was adorned by one of the guys, while the other had a shiny black lip ring that he kept fiddling with either out of habit or as a perpetual attention grabbing technique. Audrey and Denise, my fellow drinking comrades, sighed and said how "It seemed like yesterday they were cute little boys."

Gasp. What? You mean they weren't born this way? Didn't they just pop out of the womb with black nail polish? Weren't the parents forewarned that their innocent boys would eventually become... their own person?
I went home that night, a little rejuvenated for not having to bathe and put the boys to bed, and to have the unique opportunity to apply make up and feel girly. However, I restrained myself from not creeping into my boys' room to peer into their cribs and silently thank God for their innocence and if possible that they could just remain as such for longer than humanly possible.

The next day, as I was putting away my laundry, I received a subdued phone call from my sister-in-law to hear my nephew, my nearly 19 year old senior in high school nephew, just crashed for the second time while racing at a motocross event. She described the event in horrid detail, and I think I held my breath for about two minutes until she uttered "But... he's okay. Just a concussion."

With each passing day, my kids grow with more independence and although I eat it up and love to see Mason barreling down the driveway on his tricycle, or Peyton learning how to walk haphazardly like the Tin Man from the "Wizard of Oz", I admittedly dislike the bittersweet journey.

I loathe the bullheadedness that I see in both of my kids who come by it quite honestly. Jason and I have our own horns that have been in tact for many years and have a way of locking upon confrontation. It's only natural that our children would too bestow their own little horns. With those horns come an innate desire for independence, and I fear my little boys whose diapers I change right now, could be some day way too soon blowing me off with the aloof mannerisms of a teenager who doesn't care if mom thinks he looks like something out of the "Rocky Horror Picture Show".

I know that change is one of the inevitable things in life, but seriously. Really, motocross? Does this face really look like one of a boy who will do anything [including a lip ring] to pull the wool over dear mom's eyes?

Yea... I know. I'm screwed.

Monday, March 2

Measuring up: facebook and the uprise of my post-high school insecurities

Ok so maybe I'm the last twenty-six year old to register for facebook. Probably not, but I just caught up with the rest of my class and joined the conformity movement that is this new social networking era. When I realized that even some of my former coworkers old enough to be my mom were slapping comments on walls and poking their friends, I made a mental note that I've had my head head stuck in the ground far too long.

Amazing, I thought, that I can really snoop and silently check in the lives of former classmates, some of which I admit I could go without seeing for another ten years. It's great for other things too, like catching up with those true friends you did manage to find and for that reason it's highly addictive. However, it's uncanny that I'm able to follow the road maps of these people's lives. I tally up the number of grad students, those who are pursuing their PHD or their JD and I am left feeling pissed that there are no prerequisites or fancy abbreviations at the end of my name for the sake of my profession: stay at home mom.

Feeling I fell short of my own expectations was one thing, but it was quite another to feel it was like high school all over again to have to "ask" to be one's friend with the tiny voice whispering "What if they IGNORE me?!" Embarrassment. Shame even! It conjures too many old emotions of passing through those old, deteriorating, cafeteria-spaghetti-smelling hallways not knowing if the person I smile or wave at will do the old "turn, and look the other way" while I point my face straight at the floor nearly toppling into the locker bank. Not that I haven't let those old feelings die.

But doesn't it perpetuate that stereotypical high school dance? The messy tango involving you vs. the rest of the school. I mean, by the end of high school I was fully prepared to leave that dance behind and not look back, and I feel I walked to my own beat and didn't conform to very much [with the exception of FB]. I was fairly well received, but don't think I still didn't care what the quote-en-quote popular crowd thought of me. I did. I just succeeded at fooling most people.

I would like to think it is somewhere in our DNA to strive for acceptance. I guess I have ceased to remember that for a few years since my biggest critics now are not yet old enough to turn their noses up at me or baulk their opinions in retaliation. Not that they don't have the kahunas to do it, they've just got a few years [thank God] until they reach the alien stage of adolescence.

It's this ongoing feeling that I have, one that is fleeting but always causes me to question if I'm doing the most with my life. If I'm making my kids proud or does my stepdaughter quietly utter that her stepmom is "just" a mom with nothing more to her resume. Will I return to work when my boys are elementary school bound, or if I hack a part time job in lieu having latch key kids will they too feel embarrassed their mom doesn't "do" much? Perhaps, instead, it is the question most in my mind: am I measuring up?

My husband, my wise wise husband, often points out to me the handful of his colleagues who would quit teaching in a heartbeat if their family could afford the sacrifice to stay home with their kids. Don't get me wrong. I KNOW that staying home is something I will never regret.
Moments I spend negotiating with Mason that he may not run around "naaaaay-ke" in his diaper all morning, or telling Peyton again that shoving the square lego in his iddy-bitty mouth will always result in a discomforting feeling of it being lodged among his teeth. Seriously! My boys bring humor into what would be an otherwise dull day, and I have the pleasure if not the pride of being able to permanently write about them in a corner of cyberspace for all three of my readers to enjoy; it's awesome! But does that make me successful? No. Does it have to? I suppose not.

And I certainly don't want my kids to look back at my writings only to think their mama is a martyr. Because there is nothing I love more than my current passion of being a mom. It is many many things and the hardest thing and yet the most important thing I'll ever do. But regretting to do this job on the home front 24/7 is not on my list of greatest disappointments, but instead one of my best decisions I've made.

Touché, facebook. Touché.