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Wednesday, December 11, 2013

Holiday Baking for When it is the Last Thing You Want to Do [Magic Bar Recipe]


My mom is a beautiful baker. When I was growing up she would make hundreds, yes hundreds of different types of stunning cookies to give to my Dad's coworkers, family, teachers and essentially everyone we had ever met as gifts for the holidays. As kids we got to reap the benefits... we were the taste testers and the battered bowl lickers... it was pure bliss.

My mom seemed to almost find therapy in it. She also had four kids and ran a daycare out of our home so a December Saturday spent baking alone was probably the closest thing to a winter vacation that she ever got. Note to self: buy mom a larger Christmas present.

I don't typically find therapy in baking but I do often feel the torture part. I sigh in having to pull out my mixer. The exact ingredients, all that measuring, the perfectly timed cooking, being interrupted 27 times and then the fact that there are cookies that must then be consumed. Yes that's the happy part but sugar is so much more tempting when it is right in front of us. Everything in moderation though right? And these kids are desperate to bake something this time of year and I'm trying to not be a complete Ebenezer so what to do...
The solution: let's simplify. This year I'm making one homemade beautifully easy recipe and then letting my kids do exactly what they want to do- whip up a store bought mix and then let them go insane with icing and sprinkles. It is really all about the sprinkles.

Here is a so simple you will be instantly in love recipe for Magic Bars. Adapted from Vegan Cooking for Carnivores which is a fabulous cookbook written by Ellen and Portia's personal chef (I'm sure I'll be invited for dinner there any day now). This is a non-vegan version but you can substitute vegan butter and make your own non-dairy condensed milk (2 cups) if you prefer vegan or love someone that is. Both versions are magic baby...



Magic Bars

The Players

  • 2 cups graham cracker crumbs 
  • 12 tablespoons (1 1/2 sticks) butter, melted
  • 2 cans (14 oz.) sweetened condensed milk
  • One 12-ounce bag Ghirardelli semisweet chocolate chips
  • 1 1/2 cups flaked sweetened coconut
  • 1 1/2 cups chopped pecans
The Game

Preheat the oven to 350 degrees F. In a medium bowl, mix the graham cracker crumbs and the butter. Press the mixture into a 13 x 9-inch baking pan to form the crust. Pour the  condensed milk evenly over the crust.
In a medium bowl, mix together the chocolate chips, flaked coconut, and chopped pecans. Distribute the mixture evenly over the crust and press down gently. Bake for 25 minutes. Allow the pan to cool completely before chilling it — overnight if you have the time — oth­erwise chill it for 2 hours.
For best results, cut the dessert into 1 x 3-inch bars or 2 x 2-inch squares once they are ice cold. Serve them at room temperature.
Serving Size
Makes about 25 bars
Done and done.
Now off to procrastinating something else.

Happy baking or lack there of to you magical beings...

xoxo

Thursday, December 5, 2013

What NOT to Get Someone Who has a December Birthday

My dear ones, I have a birthday around the bend. And according to my Facebook friends feed, I am not alone. It is time we Sagittariuses and Capricorns unite for the good of what we receive (or lack there of) with birthdays so close to baby Jesus. I'm not saying Christmas is not an important holiday, the opposite is true, in fact I spent the first 22 years of my life using any money I received for my birthday on Christmas presents for others (now that I'm a mother I spend every dime on shit for my kids). The thing is just that we would love a little separate time of celebration too.

Here is what not to give us:

  • Anything wrapped in Christmas wrapping paper. Do you not have any holiday-free gift bag or wrapping in your home? No? I don't believe you. Look again. I am not baby Jesus or Santa and would really prefer a neutral wrapping. My husband has always wrapped gifts in newspaper or architect plans and man I really dig that about him. Going green is a safe way to go. Smart smart man.



Target has to have a normal party aisle somewhere right...
I'm lost in a maze and so drawn to all that is sparkly.
Okay, I get it now.

  • A combo gift. Look I care enough about you to combine your birthday and Christmas together- aren't I swell? You are swell and thoughtful for remembering me; I don't want to sound ungrateful. It's just that I'd prefer in an ideal world a separate shout-out- not even a gift; just a post  or call or text that's not combined as one. I don't recall combining a June birthday as a combined gift with December 25th. Or even my mom's January birthday- that would be just mean. See what I'm saying? The exception to this rule: a kick ass gift. To an island. Or time alone. AAaaahhhh yes... an alone trip to an island works as a combo gift for life.


Yes please.



  • A complete oversight. You want to know the surefire way to break someone's heart that you truly love (I'm talking the deep bff, soul mate, child/parent relationship)? Tell them that you were too busy with the holidays to remember their birthday. Ouch. That stings. I'd rather you fake a stomach virus or the plague. Breaking off plans? Damn it. I really need that cocktail. Birthday or not we all just need any excuse to drink more this time of year. 


Your place or mine? Who the hell cares. Let's just drink.




  • Anything ridiculously Christmas themed. Unless it is specifically asked for, do you mind being a doll from refraining? My dad's birthday is in April and you don't see me buying him chicks and stuffed rabbits do you? Plus not all Christmas decorations and attire are good, some are really on the dreadful side.


Case in point.
I just wish there were more ornaments on it.



So what should you get us? I don't remember a girl ever throwing someone out of her bed for anything wrapped in an Anthropologie box. And a night free of cooking and cleaning. And alcohol. Lots and lots of alcohol. This will make her birthday and the whole season a hell of a lot more merry. 







Happy happy birthday dear Sag friends & December Capricorns too who really get the shaft...
love & joy & a whole lot of toasts to you-
xoxo






Wednesday, November 27, 2013

Candy Coated Gratitude

I am a lucky one. I feel almost overwhelmed for that I have to be thankful for. Health, happiness, heat, amazing friends and family, chai tea, mojitos...

But you know what I'm feeling so blown away, cup runneth over with glorious gratefulness? I know you are thinking my children and that seems cliche and of course, I have to say them or what am I heartless? But that is only part of the equation.

It is that my children are fun.

This may be where you question that maybe I've been heartless in the past if I haven't fully appreciated that my children are fun. Doesn't everyone think that they're children are fun? The thing is, I'm being completely honest here, for me, it has been a process to get here to the pure raw joy that they are and can be.

Some people reach their fun in pregnancy or are enamored with the baby stage. I loved being in the glow of that space in time but I never fully embraced that as my natural comfort zone. Toddlers can surely have fun moments but it is freaking exhausting keeping them from every dangerous situation that you never even realized before was dangerous. My twins as toddlers made many a friend reconsider whether or not they should go for a third child. For me, the candy coated part is childhood. And the ages that my kids are now- 4 year old twins, six years old and a nine year old are (overall) delicious.

There are still challenges, but there is a hell of a lot more laughter and I'll take that bliss any day. It doesn't feel like it is all about surviving moment to moment any more. It is about soaking in the happy. Fewer tantrums and timeouts and tears and they can dress themselves and want to be good friends to each other. The potential of the day feels so much more silver lined.

Right now, they are off of school and they are building legos and making bracelets and I am writing. In another room. Yesterday I took them all bowling and it was actually fun. Seriously. The grocery store trip that followed was pushing it but still there is joy out there to be had in outings. Dreams can come true friends. This time of blissful parenthood before felt so foreign and far away that I just wasn't sure if it could ever really happen to me. And now that it is here like most things that are invaluable in life, I'm just trying to hold on to this ride for as long as I can. The days can be boundless but the years are fleeting.

Happy Thanksgiving and cheers to all that is small and mighty that you have to be thankful for...

Endless gratitude to you for reading.
Love & joy...



Our Thanksgiving decorations may be small but the gratitude I have for
these four fun turkeys is anything but.
Cheers...


Friday, November 22, 2013

What NOT to Get My Kids this Holiday

It is upon us once again. The insane frenzy of all things bright, sparkly and overstimulating. The blinking commercials and overflowing catalogs have made my children want every toy ever made. Ever. This is where the parent filter needs to come into play. I am not trying to be a Scrooge but I am going to be honest here, Lorax style. I am the naked momma, I speak for all the (clothed) mommas who don't want their homes to turn into a Toys R Us.

The thing is, I love the holidays and the pure magic of watching it unfold through a child's eyes. But I like it simpler. I like the focus to be less on being a gluttonous consumer and more on the wonder of it all. And as for those toys that my kids that my kids "can't live without" (we will call that CLW here) that make both their draft list and their final list? Let Santa bring them. Let's not steal Santa's thunder by giving them what's at the top of their list two days before Christmas. You know who are.

So here you go. Here is a brief list (I could probably think of oh so many more but I'm trying not to be a complete buzzkill) of what not to get my kids this holiday:


  • Anything with batteries. Yeah that's right, I said it. I don't love loud, constant stimulation. Or baby dolls that seem possessed. Or ones that wet the bed (I'm pretty sure we have enough of that going around here anyway). I really don't even want to change the batteries on the shit that Santa brings from the CLW list. We have found that our kids attention spans with toys last much longer on toys that require a much more natural thing: (drumroll please, I'm about to get serious) their imagination.

They really just want to eat pasta naked.
Pay no attention to the open bottles of wine behind them. This is an old picture.
We have many more open bottles now.



  • If it is sold via infomercial, it is probably going to suck in real life. Unfortunately, we have lived and learned on this one.

I can't believe I've been cooking for all of these years without a pillow around my neck.



  • Candy. We are still working through last years heart shaped Valentine chocolates. You know who brings them Christmas candy? Santa baby. It is the ultimate stocking filler. Seriously, stop stealing his thunder. If anyone's giving my kids a sugar high it is going to be this guy:

Geez Santa, you could have shared some egg nog with the rest of us.
Greedy bastard.


  • Would you want it in your home? If the answer is remotely close to a hell no than please mother of all things holy, don't give (or regift) it to us.

Awwww, you shouldn't have. Really.

  • Anything that breathes. I can barely keep my children alive. If you give them a pet than you need to be prepared that it will be instantly regifted back to you. 

Wait. I can custom make it costumes too?!
Still going to have to pass.
I'm not even sure what type of animal this is.


  • Things that are completely too old for the recipient. I'm looking at you Lego set of the Eiffel Tower. If you give my four year old something with over 250 pieces, please set aside the 17 hours it is going to take to help us put it together. Then stick around for the 44 seconds for it to be  destructed. And then that bonus 17 hours again, please. Better yet, may I recommend a Lego gift card with a side of a vat of wine.

Hold the phone.
I just saw that this costs hundreds of actual dollars and doesn't come
with someone who will build, guard and protect it.
If you are rolling in your Benjamins, how about we set Junior up with a college fund instead.



  • Things that are completely too young for the recipient. I'm trying to not have them grow up too fast either. But if a toy is designed for the under 18 month generation, the above 18 month generation is going to see it as too babyish. You can even bet some smart 16 month olds aren't going to be feeling it either. I know it is the thought that counts, but for a toy that won't be played with, no matter how good of a deal it was PLEASE donate it to Toys for Tots or another fabulous non-profit instead. 

"I love it!"
Said no one over the age of two ever.



The truth of it is that there are too many kids living without enough to give in excess to those who are lucky enough to already have plentiful gifts under their tree. Let's make sure that there is enough love to go around. Give back. Let's teach our kids to the same. A kinder more generous world could probably help bring the world peace that I'm really hoping finds its way to making more Santa CLW lists this year. Until then, please especially remember the no batteries request.


And the Grinch, with his Grinch-feet ice cold in the snow, 
stood puzzling and puzzling, how could it be so? It came without ribbons. It came without tags. It came without packages, boxes or bags. And he puzzled and puzzled 'till his puzzler was sore. Then the Grinch thought of something he hadn't before. What if Christmas, he thought, doesn't come from a store. What if Christmas, perhaps, means a little bit more.
 Dr. Seuss, How the Grinch Stole Christmas


Wishing you all things merry...
xoxo


Tuesday, November 19, 2013

What I Learned in Paradise

I have been back to reality for about a week and a half from having experienced one of the greatest trips of my life. Truthfully, I was in denial of reality until a few days ago when one of my children threw up all over the interior of our new car. That was just what I needed didn't realize I needed to remind myself to wake back up and remember that I wasn't in St. John any longer. If you have not been to St. John, let me just tell you that it was probably the closest to paradise that I have ever been. Crystal blue waters, 85 degrees, stunning beaches, snorkeling, phenomenal food and the rum... I can't even begin to tell you how ridiculously enticing those rum drinks were. And did I mention that we didn't bring our kids?

Just my husband and I with another fabulous couple with a jeep and a villa. PARADISE. Leaving the door only required grabbing a map and a water bottle. If you have young children, I know that is really the part that sounds truly amazing. And it was.

I am not sure if I will get another chance in the next decade to escape real life again so I wanted to capture this moment in time, feeling that sun so close, and remembering that it actually happened; it wasn't just a dream though if I didn't have pictures and a fading tan line it would be hard for me to believe. Here is what I learned in paradise:


  • Silence is bliss. Don't get me wrong. I love the energy and sounds of the world, especially those that come from my children. I try to not only embrace it, but to feed off of it and ignite me to play and have more fun in these days. But sometimes it is loud. Insanely high pitched screaming at all times loud. And I forget how therapeutic it can be still with my own mind. We don't realize how much noise fills our days until we have these rare stunning moments of quiet where we can just be aware of our own selves. I realized that this is why I crave yoga- that stillness and silence is priceless. On our trip, I would meditate on our deck and I could hear the sounds of tree frogs and nature and breath and peace and I fell in love with it all. Meditation could change this world.
  • The sun rejuvenates the spirit. Vitamin D is our friend. There is so much talk about too much sun exposure, skin cancer, dark spots, certain hours that should be avoided in the day, and yadda yadda yadda that we have built up a certain fear of the sun. Some fear is healthy but too much that you avoid it and you are missing out on a beautiful, natural mood lifter and depression blocker. Let's throw on some sunscreen and go soak in some happiness.
  • Be present. You know what you don't see in paradise (aside from anti-depressants)? People constantly checking their phones like their next breath depends on it. I would sometimes leave my phone in our room for an entire day and not even miss it. An entire day. I am back home and it is currently 7 inches away from me. But I'm instilling a parking lot policy for it when I'm with my kids. If we are outside than the phone is inside. I'm letting it charge when we play Go Fish. Being away helped me see how much more present and alive I can be when I'm giving my phone less power over me.
  • Be patient. No worries, mon. Island time is a miraculous thing. Stress is non-existent. Slowing down is the nature of the lifestyle. It is hard to care how long you have to wait for your entrees to  come when you have rum punch and sun kissed smiling people around you. Breathing in the moment and not being so pressed for every minute to go by faster than the next is what I hope to remember to take away. Every day. Slow down. Take it in. There is enough time for everything important in your life, you just have to be patient with yourself and awake in your life. Paradise is all around us, we just have to open our eyes to it. Booking a flight doesn't hurt either. 

“Some people feel the rain. Others just get wet.” 
 Bob Marley

xo


Until next time...

Tuesday, October 29, 2013

Crafts That You Can Do While Drinking Wine

Pinterest I am not. There is also no way that I could even come close to cleaning Martha's floor the right way. I am somewhat craft dysfunctional. Actually, I am somewhat "finishing a project" dysfunctional. But I want to be creative damn it! So what's a wanna be crafter that is short on time and heavy on children supposed to do?

I finally found the perfect solution: drink more wine. Doing crafts while drinking wine is truly a win-win. If your project turns out amazing, you will be beyond ecstatic at how well you work under the influence. If it turns out not so good, just blame the wine. What do people expect, you were drinking while holding a glue gun for goodness sake. It is fantastic news that no one got seriously burned.

Best case scenario: You made something yourself that kicks ass.
Worst case scenario: You got a great buzz.

Win-win.

Now onto the crafts that pair perfect with your favorite red or white:

1. "Look Mom, I Baked."

So easy and so fun. Grab some sharpies and some plain mugs and/or plates (I got these at TJ Maxx but you can find them all over- Michaels, Ikea, the Dollar Store, etc.). Decorate them in any way that makes you happy or get those kids to work (mine just made some for their grandfather's birthday and we put on there why they loved him in their own words- priceless I tell you, priceless).

This is them before they got baked. Hee hee.

Who doesn't adore a compliment?

Your oven's not just for frozen pizzas anymore.

Bake in a 350 degree oven for 25 minutes. Turn the oven off and just let them hang out in there until they cool down a bit (I usually let them rest for an hour or when I go to preheat the oven for something else and discover them there). 
And viola... you can just go ahead and call yourself Martha. 


Boom.

Wrap it in ribbon with a note to hand wash it
(bummer I know but it is a gift with soul so it's a small price to pay).
And you are done baby...
Your friends are going to adore you even more than they already do, as if that is even possible. 

Now for the next wine-friendly craft.

2. Could You Please Pass Some Chalk with that Cheese?

I was throwing a wine party and realized I desperately wanted for people to know which delectable cheese was which (not that my dear friends care about such details but I wanted to seem like I had my life together, at least in the form of cheese). So I grabbed up a wood chopping board (this one's from Ikea but you could use what you have on hand or again from TJ Maxx or Homegoods). I just taped the sides (note to self: next time use painter's tape, it works better than masking. And pour another drink please so you care less about perfection). Let it dry and add one more coat.


You are about to get fancy.

Oopsy daisy. Straight lines are overrated.

Hello new BFF.

Cans for drying? Why have I never had this brilliant idea before?
Thank you Merlot for guiding me straight.
 Your wine and cheese is about to get real. What?! That hostess has two types of brie! That's right. I care that much. People can't resist wine and cheese; it is a dream combo. I've even had requests for this board as a present for the holidays. Score! This does wonders for my self esteem. 

And last but not least...

3. Will Work for Burlap.

I love burlap. It is so dreamy and natural and reminds me of coffee shops. I've drunkenly made curtains with it that I'll share for another wine friendly post. When one of our stools got a chip in it, I decided to take matters into my own hands. I grabbed a coffee bean bag (sorry locals, I can't reveal my source of secret stashes of burlap bags!) but you should be able to find some at your local favorite beanery (just throw a little extra in their tip jar and you should get a hook up; not that kind, well, maybe I guess if you are in the department for a little something extra with your macchiato). 

Anyway, take your stool in need of some love:



Ouch.
Throw on some pillow fluff (I just grabbed some from a pillow that wouldn't miss it).

Oooohh, like a cloud.
Cut your burlap so that it will overlap the sides by a few inches all around.

This really makes me want to take a trip to Brazil.
Fire up that glue gun and remember that gloves are your friends while drinking and glue gunning.

Stand back children.
Glue and hold the burlap, section by section. I glued the sides and the underside of the stool and just worked my way around it. Crafts are more fun if you just make them up as you go along. Remember we are not going for perfect here, just happy. And here they are- a bit of a hot mess underneath but who is really looking under there anyway?! Are those really your friends? If so, disinvite them to your wine and cheese party.



A little cafe feel in the kitchen. Now just to master the almond milk latte... then we can throw a coffee party. Who are we kidding? Make that a mimosa party and I'll just turn on the Keurig.


That is it for this installment of What Katie Loves... hope you will join me next time lovelies...

xo



Thursday, October 17, 2013

Naked Momma on a Budget

Budget. I am trying to teach myself that it is not a dirty word. It makes me cringe. And feel weak. And slightly nauseous. It is however a necessary evil to keep my baby daddy.

It has come up frequently in our ten year marriage but somehow I've managed to "charm" (clothing optional) my way out of the discussion. To celebrate, we buy something.

I like to shop. Let me rephrase: I LOVE to shop. I get a high from the feeling of buying the perfect gift for someone. I love pillaging for an amazing bargain. I'm obsessed with buying good food for my crew. And I won't even start on my affair with shoes glorious shoes. And paper. And anything sparkly... speaking of... where was I? Oh yes. Budget (bborrriiinnngggg). Yawn. Snore. Boo.

My name is Katie and I am addicted to my credit card.

The first part is admitting the problem right? Progress. Check. Let's buy something to celebrate. Shit.

So it seems like the fall is a great time to start a big or small beautiful change. To me it feels like an unofficial start of the new year and come January we can reflect on our accomplishments for the better and have a second chance at anything left undone. My husband also recently started a new job after 15 years at the previous one which is crazy exciting but has also kick started the need for our budget reform. September's plan:

He said, "Let's only buy necessities."
I said, "Okay."

Apparently, we have a difference of opinion on what an actual necessity is. October's plan:

He said, "Let's switch to a cash system. I'll give you enough cash to last for the entire month."
I asked, "For everything?"
He replies, "Yes. For everything."
I said, "I'm in."

And this is the first month we've tried it and I have to admit- so far so good. Though it would be a whole lot cooler if tomorrow was the 31st. BLAST- IS IT ONLY THE 17TH???? Hope these kids are looking forward to eating Ramen for the next 13 days.

Let's just hope that the tooth fairy doesn't need to make an appearance over the next two weeks.


Even though it is a challenge, I highly recommend it. No more pulling out the plastic to spend $1.07 on something. And if I didn't bring cash with me, I can't buy anything; simple but effective. Have you ever tried to buy groceries in cash? It stings. Instant pain. But you are guaranteed to buy less. Fewer impulse buys. Fewer splurge items (like tissues; use toilet paper you spoiled kids!). Fewer lattes (just kidding on that one. Save cash for that. You deserve it.)

I'm also going to start doing a segment called "What Katie Loves" and I promise to feature cost savvy but still stylish finds to report to you beautiful readers. After all, friends don't let friends go through budget reform alone. Here is my new mantra that I bought in the form of a fabulous necklace (prior to the cash only system) at my favorite shop, Twisted Sisters:




Yes. 
We so can do this. 

xoxo




Monday, October 7, 2013

The Top 3 Things You Should Say to a Mother

I am constantly shocked amazed by the questions and comments that come out of the mouths of complete strangers. Sometimes I wonder when I am out in public with my four children if there is a sign on me that reads "Please ask me anything at all. I have all the time in the world. The more personal the better. Please share how perfect your children were. I would love your advice."

I'm sure that it is with all good intentions, but sometimes there seems like there might not be a lot of filtering that happens when people speak to mothers. I'm sure the same is true for fathers but I'm also positive that if my husband was out solo with the four kids that people wouldn't be asking him "natural or in vitro?" or "c-section or vaginal?" so I'm aiming this for the ones with the uterus. I want to help you well meaning strangers who want to chat with our child-bearing selves. There are definitely wonderfully gracious things you can do and say to a mother that won't insult her but could possibly even make her day. And if you can't say something nice, please just walk away. Ignoring is always better than making a mother feel either ungrateful or that she's failing at this whole life.

So when you pass a mother who is out in the world with a child having a full body tantrum in the cereal aisle, here are three things that would be lovely for you to say to her (feel to word them in your own personal way; kindness is the key):


  • You look great. See how that sounds different from "you look tired." Mommas are not often complimented on their appearance, especially when they are out with their children. You saying that could quite possibly be the highlight of her day. Trust me.

  • Your children are beautiful. Sometimes we need to remember that all children are miracles. And they are beautiful. This compliment will not only keep that in perspective for your benefit but help that overworked mom remember "Oh yeah. They really are beautiful." It makes all the crazy seem more manageable when we are reminded of the pure miracle of it all.

  • Can I help you with that? Here is the scene: she has one kid hanging on the side of her cart, one sitting inside of it making Cheerios fly and one baby crying in her bjorn and she's trying to heave a 52 count case of water anywhere it will fit in her overflowing cart so it won't crush the Cheerio thrower and you are inches away, eyes transfixed at the scene. If you have a moment (please don't offer if you don't, that would just be mean) take a deep breath and ask her if you can help her with that. She most likely is going to say "No thanks. I've got it." She secretly wants to be superwoman which is why she needs to buy so much water to stay hydrated. But she might just say yes and want to hug you for your generous offer. The point is that you offered. There is nothing slight about that.

I once had this angel of a woman approach me with absolute patience and asked me if she could follow me through the store and push one of my carts. (Yes- two carts. One to cart the children, one to cart the food = a walking ad for birth control). She said she had no where she needed to be and she was happy to offer a hand. Even though this was one of the most sincere and beautiful offers of help that I have ever received, I didn't take her up on it. I just couldn't put her through the four inevitable trips to the bathroom that were about to occur. But I don't forget that she offered. And that she saw past the crazy of it all and sensed that I could use a hand instead of judgement. Opening doors and offering assistance to strangers is a small way of showing the very large and happy idea that we have one another's back in this wild world. I hope that one day when I'm shopping alone that I, too, will channel my inner angel and help a sister out. 
And maybe even give her a Starbucks gift card. That would really be the ultimate stranger gesture.

Let's pay it forward lovelies...

xoxo

Katie 





Thursday, September 19, 2013

How NOT to be a MILF

**If you are my mom or my mother-in-law, it would be so lovely if you avoided reading this one. I think that you will enjoy this one called 9/11 The Aftermath of Compassion so much more. Thank you. You are the best.

How NOT to be a MILF

Ahhhh September. Fall is in the air. Kids are back to the classroom. Minivans are logging some serious miles and the back to school craziness is starting to feel a little less crazy. We have met all the teachers, gone to all the meetings, purchased enough Joe Corbi's to keep him in business for a long time and bought enough school supplies to stock an entire third world country. I now have 12 quality minutes a day to spend with my four kids that I'm not asking them to do their homework, change into their soccer cleats, practice the violin and not practice spinjitzu on their sister before I jam dinner into them at 4:30 so we can make a 5:00 practice. That we will inevitably be late for. And then we return home at 8 so they can shower, have a snack (what the hell- did the early bird special not fill you up?), finish homework, read something before they are given a half ass rendition of "You are my sunshine" while being thrown into bed with the hopes that the stars have aligned and they brushed their own teeth without us asking them too. I'm sure that happened. I have barely enough energy to hook up with my husband and drink a glass of Merlot before I pass out on my husband who is already passed out.

So I get it. Life is wildly full. And we are so freaking tired. But I don't think we should give up on ourselves. All of the whirlwind of pick-ups and drop-offs lead to a number of mom-eractions we will call them. You see the moms who really seem to have themselves together. Some are extraordinarily organized. Some are straight from a magazine stylish. Some are downright MILFs. And there are those of us who have had completely unfuckable, couldn't be more unattractive moments that if you put them together it could go into the best of "What Not to Wear's" highlight reel. I view motherhood as a sisterhood and feel that it is my calling to help a fellow sister get some. This is what I have learned over the last decade of motherhood about what not to do to become a MILF. 

  • Mom Jeans. Don't do it. If the button of your jeans is higher than your belly button than it is far too high. Only three people in the world can pull off the "on trend" high waisted look: Heidi Klum, Taylor Swift and Beyonce. So unless you are 6 foot, 9 inches tall, weigh 98 pounds and blonde or have a child named Blue Ivy than please, please put the mom jeans down. Better yet, donate them to Goodwill. Halloween is coming and those jeans will go to a fun home that will put them to good comical use.

If what you are wearing is featured in a Saturday Night Live skit than it is not a good, everyday fashion choice.

  • Too Many Stickers on the Back of Your Minivan. I'm pretty positive that the number of stickers on your vehicle directly correlates to how frequently you have sex. As in the higher number of stickers that are there indicates the sex in your future is going to be less and less and less. That is so great that Presley made honor roll 17 times and Paisley plays lacrosse AND field hockey and that you love your German Shepherd. But in that long string of stick people wearing Mickey Mouse ears, I'm just going to take a gamble and say that the last time you had sex was when that small one at the end was conceived. And if you happen to be a man behind that Odyssey wheel, purchasing those stickers at Disneyworld, let's just say that you aren't exactly going to fall in the DILF category. 

Definite points for originality.


  • Christmas Sweaters. You might as well just wear a sign that says "I have given up on having sex again for the rest of my entire life." And if the sweater or vest or turtleneck lights up in any way, I strongly think that you consider joining a convent.

So sparkly.


  • Debbie Downers. At first I thought once you talked about what had you down that everything would be okay but now I realize that that is never going to happen. Your love of all things depressing, couldn't be anymore of a buzzkill to be around. Time is valuable, don't waste it sucking the joy out of the room. Please get yourself some Cymbalta and a vibrator and than shoot me a message that you are ready to put the happy back in happy hour. 

This could be you post-vibrator.


  • Non-stop Yoga Pant Wearers. I am completely guilty of this, especially after having twins. Hell, I'm guilty of it right now while I type. I call it night to day wear. No need to change out of your pajamas to take your kids to the bus, or to pick them up, or change into a different pair of pajamas. By day 3, this gets to be downright disgusting. Your kids look at you with sympathy. Your spouse/partner is frieghtened. And you can't remember if you showered this week, not to mention the last time you actually went to yoga in your yoga pants. It is time to clean up, find something in your closet that makes you remember that you have a vagina and go somewhere with cloth tablecloths. You deserve it.



  • The Overachievers. A little less pinterest and a little more lingerie shopping is in order. You are so good and so into winning at so many things that I think we need to channel your energies into overachievement in the bedroom. Something tells me that someone was left high and dry last night because someone was up to the wee hours making this:

My kids will barely eat pizza.


With a side of this:



You could have been watching Real Housewives while drinking tequila.


And if you don't want to be a MILF, that is okay. But let's start with doing things that make us feel good about ourselves. Confidence is sexy and we shouldn't apologize for that. Being sexy radiates joy. People love happy people. People love to see confident, sexy, happy people naked. And there you have it- you are officially (or unofficially if you prefer) a MILF. And if it seems that right now you are too boggled in all of the day to day consumption of parenthood, just take it one step at a time. You will be a better mom for focusing on your own happiness once in awhile. 
Fake it until you own it. In more ways than one.

Cheers to the sisterhood of motherhood...
xoxo




Monday, September 16, 2013

I Get By With a Little Help...

I just don't even know what I would do without these glorious beings I call friends. They are everything I never knew how much I would need. I love that new friends emerge in the different phases of life. Though the faces may change, the dearest people to me all have a similar characteristic: the friendship is easy. The logistics might be at times challenging but the friendship at its core is natural. It is a beautiful thing and I am so grateful.

There are the ones that know everything there is to know about me and somehow still love me anyway. There are ones I see when far too much time has passed but somehow the conversation always picks up like it was never left. Some friends knew me before babies, some helped me survive pregnancies and there are the ones who know my children. There are the friends who know what it is like to really need to drink a glass of wine. In the morning. Without judgement. And those I only see in classrooms and yoga studios. There are those that I can depend on to dance on a table with and those that sense when I need to let go, release, cry and move forward. And to you dear friends that read this blog, please know that I deeply adore you and read every comment, every e-mail, every message. I love to hear your words.

None of us are perfect. That would be completely irritating. Friends are human, beautifully so and remind us that life is supposed to be fun. They are the reminders of how exceptionally marvelous it feels to laugh with your whole body involved. They are the ones that we can not take for granted.

I do not know how I got so lucky. I need to start telling more people thank you. And I'm going to start right now. Thank you for the joy and the dedication. Thank you for the love. Thank you for saying to keep on going. Thank you for the tea. And definitely the wine. You are crazy fabulous, my friends.

Thank you for being.

xoxo



Wednesday, September 11, 2013

9.11 The Aftermath of Compassion

Everyone remembers the shock of the world on September 11th. Where they were when the planes hit. The horror. The devastation. The glass. The smoke. The tears. Who they called to make sure they were okay. Who they weren't able to get a hold of. The bodies found. The bodies lost. The feeling of time standing still and forgetting to exhale.

I worked at The Washington Post and I have always felt that I was supposed to be there that day on the 16th floor at the interior of the nation's capital. I watched the smoke pour out onto the sky from the Pentagon. Rumors and tragic updates flew in and out like the waves of the ocean. The news couldn't be reported fast enough. When I left that day and went outside, the normally gridlocked streets were empty. DC was a ghost town. It felt like a deserted movie set. Eerily quiet. That is the point that I cried.

We remember the feel of that day. The places we listened to the news, the panic, loss and empathy. We remember the stories. The questions. The anger. The widows. And absolutely the heroes.

What we sometimes may forget is the aftermath of compassion. A nation that was shattered and found a way to see each other in a new light. A nation reunited. People called one another just to hear their voice. People called because time felt more fragile and more sacred. People cared. And people forgave. Strangers gave each other tissues on the street and told each other how deeply sorry they were. Acquaintances embraced one another. Parents held their children tighter. People helped in any way they possibly could. People listened with patience. People let go of what didn't matter and clutched closer to what did. We were one another's rocks. Kindness prevailed. Gentleness was savored. Love reigned.

From one of the most tragic of days came the most gracious humanity. A stunning aftermath that may have gotten slightly lost in the history books over the years. I hope we do even more than remember. I hope we keep that type of grace alive. I hope we listen again. Check in on one another again. Let's end conversations with love instead of anger. Let us treat people with the type of compassion that they deserve. Let us toast the joy of one another. It is time to pay hope forward.

In light, love and hope...





Thursday, September 5, 2013

The Year of No

I have to say no to my children more times in a day that I care to admit. No cookies for breakfast. No flip flops at school. No cleats in the house. No TV before homework. No you can't have a puppy. Or an iguana. Or a pool. No ninjas at the dinner table. No opening the packages I'm about to mail. Blast. You opened the packages I was about to mail. Timeout.

It is nos on top of nos around here. A no tower. All. Day. Long.

With children it feels like the nos are a necessity. Yes I prefer the yesses but it is the nos that give the structure of learning right from wrong. I give them in the (desperate) hope that my children will grow up to be happy, healthy adults that are able to function in society without their fingers in their noses and their shoes on the right feet. Or at least to not do the things that we did in our youth. For me the nos give them oxygen. Not the amount that makes them suffocate from too much restriction or the other extreme that makes them take advantage and become spoiled. Just the beautiful inbetween where they are able to breathe but they know that they are loved enough to care how they behave as human beings.

But when it comes to adults it becomes a bit more blurry. We sometimes forget about our own oxygen that we so desperately need and deserve. We become yes machines trying to out volunteer one another. In the battle of super parents, I fold. I do not want to be super or parent in a supposedly superior way. I'll take mediocre, thank you very much, with a giant side of sanity.

I am not dissing volunteering in anyway. In fact the world absolutely needs those willing to do extraordinarily selfless things for the pure benefit of knowing they have done something for the greater good of humanity. Our communities and schools are better places because of those willing to dedicate their precious time and energy into making them better. They are paid in thank yous and occasionally (but not often enough) in free food. I will absolutely give my hours to the non-profits that have personal meaning to me. I believe though, that if we say yes to every invitation, fundraiser, car wash, project, yard sale, cookie sale, playdate, meeting, potluck, campout, dance, instrument, sport, choir, theatre, festival, 5K run, class parent opening, coaching opportunity, troop leader position, "enrichment" activity and birthday bounce house party that it just might cloud what is truly important to us. If it is enough to make your head spin, just imagine what it could be doing to you child's.

My yes card is full.



So this year I am saying no. Unless something directly benefits the relationship that I have with my children or my marriage or my close friendships than it is quite simply not worth it. I am choosing them. I am choosing me. I am choosing the causes that we deeply care about. I will show them that we do give back, we just do it with intention. Why give our best selves to others and have little left to give at home? Our money and time are valuable things and it would do a world of good to invest them wisely.

Mother Teresa so eloquently said, "What can you do to promote world peace? Go home and love your family."

Cheers to that.

xoxo,
your non-super but oh so happy naked momma

Monday, August 26, 2013

To My Children on their First Day

This is what I want for you and wish for you. School is full of greatness but there are moments of challenge that can happen through it. You just be there and be a kid everyday and leave any possible worrying for the grown-ups. That is what we are here for. We were given children to remember what joy feels like it. So my dear loves, here is your checklist for childhood living:

Try
Learn
Hope
Dream
Play
Laugh
Listen
Whisper
Read
Skip
Imagine
Create
Be kind
Be a kid
Be a student
Be a friend
Be you
One of a kind beautiful you

Be present and amazing things will follow. You try your best every day. And I promise I will try too. You have already made me proud.
Let's do this loves...
Happy 1st and 3rd grade and preschool too-



All my love.



Tuesday, August 20, 2013

Dear Estella


Welcome to the world little beauty. You are my sister's third baby girl which makes me one wonderfully grateful aunt. I need to make a few promises to you right out of the gate on this day that you were born. Here is the thing with promises, they are not meant to be broken. I will do everything I can to be a constant in your life, a reminder that I see you, your potential and I will be here.

I promise to love you like one of my own children. Actually, I promise to love you differently than my own children; in a way that makes me appear cooler, hipper than my own children could possibly ever see me. The thing with them is that I have to keep on being their mother. Always. Oh so responsible for how the turn out and all the pressure and to do lists that comes with that. But for you and your sisters my responsibility is just to be fun. Sweet beautiful bliss. I'll take it.

I promise to buy you adorable, completely non-practical clothing. Of course you need baby skinny jeans. I recently stared way too long at a 0-3 month size trench coat for you that cost twice as much as mine (we will wait for that to go on sale, love). I promise to give you cookies the size of your head and gigantic banana splits. I promise that there will be slumber parties in your future where bedtimes will be ignored. I promise that you will see the ocean. And catch fireflies. And play hide and seek. I promise to laugh with you. I promise to dance with you. I promise to listen to you without judgement. I promise that I will want to hurt the first person that breaks your heart. But I won't. Aunts are not here to embarrass. That's why there's parents.

You are the twelfth grandchild for your Grandma and Grandpa. Lucky number 12. It seemed that for awhile there that it would be eleven kids to carry on this great shrieking family laugh of ours but you and your parents had other plans. This speaks to your momma's great strength. She would have jumped through flames to make sure you arrived. She knew her world would not be complete without you in it. She was destined for the miracle that is you. You have made this world more whole.

Every life is a gift. A glorious one that should not be taken for granted. I can not wait to see what you will do with it. I promise to love you. Always have. Always will.

Cheers to you gorgeous...
xoxo-
Aunt Katie




Thursday, August 15, 2013

Yes. My Hands Are Full.

Strangers say oh so many things when I'm out in public with all of my children. "Are they all yours?" Yes. "Are they identical twins?" No. There is a key part of their anatomy that makes boy/girl twins not identical. I've been asked if I needed a nanny. Or a television. But without a second thought the #1 most commonly spoken stranger comment is (drumroll please...) "Your hands sure all full."

I'm asked this almost every time we go out in the world. Sometimes several times in one outing. I can't even imagine how the Duggers ever even make it through anywhere. I know people mean well but it is a somewhat exhausting comment. Exhausting really because I could never come up with a witty or even semi-witty response. When the twins were babies and I was schlepping them around in a double stroller, two grocery carts or sometimes some variation of one in a baby bjorn and the other in a sling with my older two by my sides, I typically gave a sleep-deprived "yes." Or an unspoken forced smile with desperation in my eyes.

Where does my latte go?


As time marched on and more sleep was had by all, the well-meaning strangers would still say it again and again "You sure have your hands full" and I would try my best lines on them like a comedian, trying to gage their reactions of whether my response worked or not. I tried "You should see my laundry room" or a simple truth "I drink a lot of wine". Sometimes a dramatic "help me" seemed to go over well. 

After almost nine years of parenting and four years of surviving these twins, I think I've finally found the right response. It's not witty, maybe borderline cheesy but it is the truth. And I love honesty. Here goes:




I'll let you know if I come up with something else but for right now where we are in life, it absolutely works. I'll take a full soul any day.

xoxo



Wednesday, August 7, 2013

Skinned Knees and Wild Hair

Skinned knees and wild hair. If you were a perfume that is what I would name you. The scent would be of the sweetest season of childhood. The perfect blend of suntan lotion, melted ice cream and summer rain. When people would spritz it on their wrists they would feel... free. Free of worry. Free of care. Free of feet touching the ground.

The thing is though, I'm just not sure there would be a bottle large enough to contain you. I hope there never is. You aren't the type that should ever be contained.

There is so much beauty in your freedom. Wild curls always untamed, dirt under fingernails, grass stains on knees that have fallen tirelessly from legs that want to run faster than your feet can catch up. You are a girl that loves the fall as much as the twirl. My favorite part is that you get right back up to do it again. And again. You have earned your grass stains.

I do wish that I could bottle this moment. This place in time of you belly down on a swing with laughing eyes and having nowhere you have to be but the backyard. I know I will blink and you will be boarding the schoolbus with freshly brushed hair, matching unstained clothes and shoes that don't have glitter on them. You probably won't even want to wear a purple tutu to the grocery store any longer.




I learned how quick little girls grow by watching your older sister. I wanted all of those sensible things too early for her. All of the control. All of the perfectly combed pigtails. All of the time wasted battling over me choosing the coordinated outfits for preschool instead of giving her the freedom that she wanted deserved. I thought everything had to appear so together because I presumed that it was a direct reflection of me. Of who I was as a parent. I was too caught up in what other people thought of me to let her fully express her own thoughts and style. I didn't realize how much more rewarding it is to let kids just be who they are instead of trying to mold them into a smaller, better version of myself.

I learned. And luckily for me, (I hope) it wasn't too late. Because she was four and Niko was two when you and your twin brother came into our world. Something had to give. Anyone who could dress themselves quickly became my favorite people in the house. The more mismatched the outfits were, the happier her and I both felt. Ballerina costumes and anything with zebra leggings were all the rage. Somewhere in a disorganized box, I even have a picture of her wearing a pale pink sundress with the January snow falling high behind her.

In a few too short weeks, she will be boarding the bus in a matching-much-analyzed-perfect-for-the-first-day-of-third-grade outfit. After we kiss her and Niko goodbye, you and Micah will walk back down the hill to our house by my side for one last bittersweet year. I vow to you this: I will soak in this essence of childhood as much as possible while it is still within my grasp. It won't be long now until I have to set you free. But until then I will watch you be my wild child, laughing, swinging and getting up again in an absolutely crazy fun little number. And I will be there absorbing you in, learning more than could ever be contained.