Life just keeps on keeping on

I’m pretty sure that’s some kind of «Joe Dirt» quote, «keep on, keeping on.» For a ridiculously cheeseball movie, it actually had some pretty awesome take-aways. I mean, «life’s a garden, dig it,» that’s pure gold right there.

I haven’t been exceptionally busy or racing around, it’s really just been a culmination of everyday nuances keeping me lately.

I feel like once you become a parent, that’s basically the story of your life. You feel so busy all the time, but most days you can hardly recall what was actually so foreboding that had you running around.

Now that Pearyn is four years old and entering her Pre-Kdom, she’s becoming much more of a busy body. Over the course of the last few seasons, she’s jumped from ice skating lessons, to dance, to swimming (her absolute favorite) to now, T-ball (my absolute favorite).

Now, I could be wrong here, but her current athletic prowess when it comes to basically anything with a ball indicates she may never, ever play this sport again. So this may be my only year to coach my little girl in the sport I hold dear, so I’m soaking up every minute of it. And she’s … she’s soaking up every minute of being outside with her best bud Joey, finding airplanes, sitting in the grass and hitting the tee more than the ball.

In addition to coaching our daughter and working seven jobs to feed our 17-month-old with the bottomless pit, we’ve spent the last few spare moments outside, tending to the flowerbeds, re-landscaping and with our friends while the men put together an over-the-top swingset for our kiddies to play on and the women chased said kiddies around.

It’s finally together and boy, is it a doozy. Even the adults have had fun on this bad boy!

Although, I will admit this. Before we ordered this monstrosity I daydreamed about how nice it would be to have a playset in our backyard so we could just open our door and boom, there we were, at the «playground.» While this is incredibly true and convenient, it’s also brought something else closer to home — fear. And stress. And anxiety. And my overactive imagination.

Playgrounds make me incredibly nervous. I envision my children tumbling head forward off the regular slide, or getting their leg caught in the tube slide and breaking it, flying of the swings and breaking an arm, the opportunities to cause bodily harm on a playset are endless.

And now, instead of walking a few blocks or having to drive to a park, we’ve put that playset in our very own backyard. Now, I simply open my backdoor and have a panic attack. We built a heart attack in our backyard.

Oh well, at least I’ll be at home if an emergency arises, that’s a silver lining, right?

Because we own our very own home with a super fun backyard, I find myself spending more and more time outdoors. Some days on my lunch break I’ll take a book outside and sit. On the weekends, my husband and I drink coffee on the patio while the kids run around and talk about what else we want to do with this crazy jungle yard of ours.

While things haven’t really changed all that much, I’m starting to feel a happy peace with where we are in life. We’ve come a long way and during that, we’ve lost some friends, gained some and had a lot of scuffles.

But somehow, I wake up in the morning and have a new appreciation in all these little things we have going on. We’re at the point where we’ve separated from a lot of the toxic things in our lives, things which bring us more heartache than hope, things which bring out the worst in us instead of the best, and now, what we’re left with is amazing.

There’s something utterly amazing in the ordinary.

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Five things you should do before you have a kid

Lately, I’ve come to notice a very, very definitive line between the friends I keep. They’re either knee-deep in poopy diapers and baby vomit or they’re living the carefree, childless life — jettisoning away on fabulous vacations and spending far too much on wardrobes and drinks. (I know, sometimes I wonder how I got such cool, grown-up friends)!

And while every once and a while the green-eyed monster makes an appearance and I long for the days of my baby-free body, the ocean and a beach-inspired cocktail, I’m being completely honest when I tell you I fall madly in love with my life multiple times a day. 

So now that a few of my childless friends are making that big leap into parenthood, I’ve decided with five years of making babies and raising em’ under my belt, I should probably spread some of my awesome wisdom.

So here it is folks, five things you MUST do before you have a kid.

1. Get sick. (I know, you’re all, WHAT? How is this the number one thing I should do before having a kid). Just hear me out. Once you have a child, you don’t get a sick day. It doesn’t matter if you’re tossing your cookies or coughing up a vital organ, your needs will always come far, far AFTER that tiny being. So while you still have the chance, get really sick, wallow in self pity, lay in bed for three days straight and watch terrible, terrible television. Heck, live off vegan grilled cheese and sick soup. Drink vegan milkshakes. I don’t care what you do, but take the time to tend solely to your needs, while you still can!

2) Travel somewhere, anywhere. It doesn’t matter where, just go. And I’m not saying this because you’ll never go on a trip again once you have a child, because you will, and you should. Family trips are good for the soul. I’m saying you should go on a massive trip before having kids because it is the last time you’ll be able to travel somewhere and not have to pack your entire life’s belongings. Sure, you may feel like you need those 16 pairs of shoes, but really, you don’t. 

Before you have a kid you can pack up your purse, grab your phone and you’re pretty much set. You won’t have this kind of freedom again. So run off to the California coast with just the shirt on your back and your wallet, while you still can!

3) Spend the day watching someone else’s hellions. Before you have children, you are the best parent in the world. You know exactly how you’re going to discipline your kids, how you’re going to read them only the most educational bedtime stories and you’ll never use the television as a babysitter. Again, I repeat, you’re the BEST parent you’ll ever be BEFORE you have kids. 

So just when you think you know it all, spend some quality time with your best friend’s kids. Offer to hang out with your nieces and nephews. Alone. Without their parents. You will have a completely new love and devotion for whatever friend or family member you help out. Get a real taste of what they’re going through everyday and even better, get a taste of all this love you’ve got coming your way if you decide to make little people.

4) Wear something completely and utterly, jaw-droppingly, inappropriate. Whether you’re a chick and you’ve been too embarrassed to wear that teeny-tiny bikini or you’re a dude who wants to sport tight, pleather pants, get in all the barely-there clothing before you have a kid. 

Once you have a child you’re going to have that voice in the back of your head saying «yo, you’re someone’s PARENT, are you sure you should be wearing that?!» Suddenly you have a closet full of Bill Cosby sweaters and mom jeans and you’ll be reminiscing about the days you wore miniskirts and low-cut tops. 

5) Go swimming and read a book cover to cover. Don’t mistake me. You’re totally going to be able to go to the pool and you’ll probably find time to read a book once you have a kiddo. But you’ll never be able to do these two things as carefree as you can right now. 

Once you start taking your munchkin to the pool, you’re eyes will be unmistakably opened to the danger surrounding that simple body of water. And while you can definitely lose yourself in a good book after becoming a mom or dad, it’ll never have the same no-strings-attached feel it does before then. So kick your feet up, grab a book and float around in the deep end, while you haven’t memorized the 92 blind spots and danger zones of your favorite swimming hole. 

Bonus: And if you still have an itch to scratch before having a child of your own, try this on for size: sit in the bathroom, all by yourself. Just sit there. Do it with the door open. Or the door closed. Read a magazine. Just stare out the window. Pick a zit. Hell, paint your nails while sitting on the toilet. Just bask in the glory of having the bathroom ALL. TO. YOURSELF. ALL. BY. YOURSELF. ALL. ALONE. Because once you hear the patter of those little feet around your house, the LAST place you’ll ever be alone again is the bathroom. 

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Crispy chickpeas: Your favorite meals in one bite

Why did the armadillo cross the road?

I don’t know. I’m not even sure why the chicken did.

I’m just utterly giddy about this awesome company, 2Armadillos!

Not familiar with them yet? Trust me, you should seriously rush out and get to know them, because they make some of the most phenomenal chickpeas I’ve ever had.

I know, you’re all, really Chubby Vegan Mom, chickpeas? But yes, yes dear reader, chickpeas. Roasted chickpeas. Crazy delicious, crazy crispy chickpeas. With flavors like Spicy Cayenne, Tomato Basil, Rosemary and Cinnamon Toast, they pack a punch for any and everyone.

The even better part? These snacks aren’t bloated with a bunch of crazy ingredients or chemicals. They’re roasted in organic coconut or olive oil and rubbed in a few simple spices to create the perfect snack in one little crunch! That also means no scary GMOs to worry about! They even hand roast all these chickpeas so they reach absolute perfection!

I know what you’re wondering. What the heck does armadillos have to do with chickpeas? It’s inspired by a cartoon which the team likes to incorporate into their day-to-day business, one that speaks volumes of the importance of collaboration and teamwork.

Now, the BEST part. Oh my goodness these are crunchy chickpeas of Heaven. I know, I know,  you’re thinking, psh, I’ve roasted chickpeas before, they were OK, but I don’t think they were necessarily celestial. Trust me, the chickpeas from 2Armadillos are. They SO are.

My personal favorite was rosemary. The olive oil, salt and seasoning in this little beauty tasted like Thanksgiving in one bite, one crunch. I felt like I had gobbled up a bunch of stuffing and then some.

And the tomato basil were by far Braeburn’s favorite. Pear even tried one and said it reminded her of pizza, which it really does. Brae stood in the kitchen as we sampled these different flavors, shaking his head yes and no when I tried to offer him other things.

Spicy cayenne was made for Chubby Vegan Dad. It was spicy, but still flavorful. I’m a fan of hot things, so a few of these seemed to fulfill my craving for something snacky. And these babies aren’t just hot to be hot, they actually taste really, really good.

And lastly, the cinnamon toast. These were stolen and hoarded by Pearyn right away, but lucky for me she left enough for me to do something fun with. I wasn’t sure how good a «sweet» chickpea would be, but the coconut oil really smoothed over the taste and balanced the cinnamon. I found these to be the perfect addition to some awesome cinnamon swirl muffins I made.

These chickpeas aren’t available nationwide at stores yet, but they’re working on it. And who needs to shop in a store anyhow? You can order chickpeas galore over on the 2Armadillos website! I can’t wait to get my hands on a few more bags so I can bake a few more tasty items with them!

Coffee cake muffins with crunchy chickpea crisp
(Makes 12)
1 cup all-purpose flour
1/2 cup whole wheat flour
1/2 cup light brown sugar
2 tsp baking powder
2 tsp cinnamon (you can add a bit more to your taste, just remember it will intensify when baking)
1 tsp baking soda
1/4 teaspoon salt
3/4 cup vanilla almond milk (you can substitute another, like soy, coconut or hemp. I’d avoid rice because it tends to be a bit thinner)
1/3 cup canola oil
1/2 cup applesauce

Crumble topping:
1/4 cup brown sugar
1/2 cup white sugar
1 3-oz pouch of roasted cinnamon toast chickpeas
1 stick vegan butter, melted
1 cup all-purpose flour

Preheat your oven to 375 degrees.

In a mixing bowl, stir together flours, sugar, baking powder, cinnamon, baking soda and salt. Pour in almond milk, canola oil and applesauce. Whip together with a hand or stand mixer on high (this will help add some fluff to the batter). Spoon batter into a greased muffin pan.

For the crumble topping, blend chickpeas in food processor a few times to crush them. They should be in a crunchy, chunky baking sugar state. (If you overpulse don’t worry, it will just be more soft crumble and less crunch). Set asside and mix together sugars, melted butter and flour. You might find pressing the mixture with a fork will help some give it a «crumbly» texture. Add in pulsed chickpeas.

Distribute crumble over coffee cake muffin batter evenly (start by a spoonful at a time). Bake for 15 minutes, or until the sides pull some and you can insert a toothpick in the middle and pull it out cleanly.

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An open letter to Disney, from the mother of a princess

Dear Disney,

First off, let me start by saying this: Frozen? Well played, Disney, well played. While I’ve watched this movie countless times, surely enough to have dissected every last scene, it’s kept my daughter, 18-month-old son, husband and myself completely entertained every.single.time.

Sure, I could do without hearing yet another rendition of «Let it Go.» And I may or may not be on edge if someone asks me if I want to … (I’m so afraid they’re going to say snowman!). But overall, I was a parent on the Frozen bandwagon. Thank goodness we’ve got good guys, bad guys, a reindeer, a talking snowman (hello, can we get more of these?) and finally, some chicas who can save themselves. FINALLY.

So I applaud you. Between Brave and Frozen, I am so willing to give you a pat on the back for finally getting some princesses with a little spine. (Don’t get me wrong, I’m not neglecting the power of Pocahontas or Mulan, but my pretty-in-pink, only wears frilly dresses, sugar and LOTS of spice, little girl likes to watch the uber-feminine princesses).

But there are a few issues, I’d like to address. For starters, do your princesses all have to have CRAZY long hair? I mean, for reals, Disney? Is there some fairy tale code of conduct that requires them to have flowing locks past their buttocks? Couldn’t we have one with a cute bob? I mean on behalf of mothers everywhere, if I have to hear my daughter tell me she wants hair like Rapunzel one more time, my head might spin. This is how a typical morning and night go in my household:

Me: «Pear, sweetie, come here so I can braid your hair.» (because princesses don’t have ponytails, they have braids)

Pear: «I want to wear my hair down. Like Sleeping Beauty.»

Me: «OK, well then we’re going to need to brush it out, we don’t want it to get more tangles.»

Pear: «OKKKKKKKKKKKKKKKKKKKKKKKKKKKKKKKKKK, I’ll wear it in a BraaaaiiiiDDDDD. But it has to be one, not two. I want to look like Elsa. And one braid looks like Elsa. Two looks like Anna.»

Me: «You do know it was Anna (oh shit, I accidentally said ‘Anne-UH,’ my daughter is going to eat my heart) who saved Elsa. I think two braids are pretty cool.»

Pear: «It’s ANNA (pronounced «ON-UH»), mom. I want one braid. Like Elsa.»

Me: «You know, if we cut your hair some it wouldn’t be as hard to brush. It doesn’t have to be too short, maybe to your shoulders.»

Pear: (Makes a face of complete and utter disgust like I just suggested we buzz cut her hair) «MoooooOOOOOOOoooom, then my hair won’t be beautiful like Rapunzels. I want to have hair as long as hers.»

Me: (Says nothing, but a tiny piece of my soul dies as I imagine the drama that will ensue while brushing out stories-long hair). 

Actually, an addendum to the above request. Maybe, you could just make it cool to brush their hair, constantly? Because part of my daughter achieving her Tangled-esque hair involves me, combing out said tangles. Which usually ends with one of us in tears. And seriously, it’s not just my daughter. It’s daughters everywhere in the world who don’t want their hair brushed. These are the things that drive mothers to drink. We sit in the corner, hugging our knees and rocking back and forth, praying the clock will freeze so we won’t have to take a comb through our offspring’s ‘flowing locks.’

Eventually, one of two things happen in my household: I win, we comb the hair and my daughter sobs for the entire one-minute ordeal. (And let me make it clear, I do it as gently as humanly possible. I hold the ends so she won’t feel it, but she’s either got the most sensitive head in the universe or she’s crying in anticipation.) Sure, from time to time I dream of taking the clippers to her head, but I’d never actually do that. Unless you could help a sistah out and maybe give a princess a buzz cut? Think G.I. Jane meets Brave. I think it could totally work.

If I can’t seem to gather the courage needed to brush my four-year-old daughter’s hair, I usually just put it in a ponytail (which results in a clumpy, knotty, mess, but hey, at least she didn’t cry). This would be the most succesful option however, other parent’s tend to judge me allowing my four year old to have dreadlocks, so after a few disapproving stares, I usually end in tears).

And hey, while we’re changing up the princess’ image, maybe they could rock some darling shorts and a t-shirt more often? You know, with a cute pair of sneakers? I’m not against all things girly, I’m totally down with the tiara and heels, even after I spend 20 minutes getting the tiara UNTANGLED from my daughter’s hair. But these elaborate gowns, well, they just need to go. My daughter begs and begs to wear them and when I finally cave and let her don the fancy schmancy dress, she whines for the rest of the day because «it’s hot,» or «it’s scratchy» or «she can’t find her legs» or «a small forest creature has ended up inside the dress somehow.» A pair of cute shorts and a t-shirt would really eliminate these first-world problems we’ve got going on.

Oh, and while I’m thinking of it, your DVDs and that damned «fast-play» option, it makes me want to pull my hair out (which would solve one dilemma I suppose). Fast play = the BANE of my existence. You don’t need all that extra marketing, really, do you? I mean we’ll be at the store and the second my daughter sees one of your sparkle-covered princesses she’s all over it (be it a shirt, toy, movie, coloring book, blanket), regardless if she’s seen some crappy minute-preview on one of your DVDs. So for the sanity of us parents who BUY your dvds, can you just do me a favor? When I stick the DVD in the player, can it just start the movie. Seriously, just play the movie. If I want special options or features, THEN I’ll use that hoax of a «fast play» menu.

And lastly, Disney, dear, sweet, sucks-my-kiddo-in-every-time, Disney, could you please, for the love of everything in this sweet, sweet world, STOP killing the parents? STOP making us evil? I’m cool if you want to just push us into the background, but after watching Frozen 90 bajillion times, my daughter is convinced every time her father and I leave the house we’re secretly sneaking off for a boat ride to some foreign country which will end with her parents at the bottom of the sea.

And because I’m playing nice, Disney, I’m not even going to bring Bambi into this. (You know, the ole’ classic where ya go and kill that precious baby deer’s mommy?) I, and parents everywhere, have solemnly sworn off that monstrosity of a flick.

Unless Bambi’s momma starts sporting a cute bob and some shorts, then we might be game.


The mother of a princess

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It’s not all about YOU

I was standing in my kitchen yesterday. I was staring out the window over the sink, my eyes settling along the thick ropes of electric cables we have jutting through our impeccable tree line. I was rehashing the days events. Mostly, though, I was trying to focus on the intrusive wires so that maybe I wouldn’t give in to the lump in my throat and the overwhelming urge to sob.

I was having a bad day. I had made a few goofs at work. And while no one was chewing my ear off or condemning me for the little snafus I’d caused, I was doing a good enough job at it myself.

And then my son, my wonderfully curious, over-emoting, often-clingy, darling little man latched onto my leg. His mouth was covered in the caked-on crumbs of a cereal bar I’d caved in and given him when he should have been having a nutritious dinner. I picked him up and as he nuzzled his sticky face into my shoulder, I pulled him away, trying to forego the inevitable transfer of gooey fruit mess as long as I could. He started wailing. He spit out the bite he’d been chewing on and it plopped to the ground. As I set him down in an attempt to sweep the crumbs under the rug, he threw the rest of his cereal bar down and began to flail and flop all over it. There was now a thin layer of sweet fruit filling and gummy crumbs covering the majority of my kitchen floor.

And as he looked at me in between sobs, the tears I’d been holding back began to leak onto the floor.

My daughter wandered in from the living room, after taking a break from playing Doctor Queen Elsa fixes every creature in our household, oblivious to the entire scenario.

«Mommy, Braeburn spit his cereal bar out and smashed it all over the floor.» (insert mischievous little tattle-tale giggle here).

I took a deep breath, my head still collapsed in my hands.

«He’s still doing it, but you can make me a cheese sandwich. With the kind I like. Not the kind daddy bought. The kind you and I get, from the store. In the purple. The kind that I like. Not the kind like the pizza we eat. But the other kind, you know that has the two same colors but they’re really …»

«Yes Pearyn, Yes, I can. I will. OK. I know what kind you want.» I was losing my temper and I was shaky.

«Can you cut the crust off? And can you put it in the shape of Cinderella’s shoe? Or no, wait, can you do a turtle. I love turtles. They’re my favorite animal in the water. I like giraffes too though, can I have a giraffe cheese sandwich. Or what about one like my crocodile stuffed animal. And can I have pink lemonade with it? But in my new glass, the one with flowers on it, not the one with Rapunzel that has the straw that always squirts when you …»

«Pearyn, I know. I know. I’ll get …»

«But mommy it has to be in the new cup, not the new cup with the straw that comes out, but the one where it stays in. And then I want a cookie. Can I have a cookie if I eat my cheese sandwich? Or can I have two fruit snacks. Or can I have half a cookie and one …»

«Just stop Pearyn, just STOP,» I sobbed. «It’s not all about YOU.» Her brother was crying again and now my tiny, impressionable four-year-old daughter was trying to figure out what the heck she did wrong. After all, she was just asking for what she wanted.

And then she looked at me. She took my hand, pulled me onto the floor and hugged me around my neck.

«It’s OK mommy, you don’t have to cry. Sometimes I cry but I feel better in a little bit. But you don’t need to be sad. You’re my favoritist mommy ever. You can put my pink lemonade in the old glass, it’s OK, I won’t be mad.»

And as if it were planned, my son crawled into my lap, giant, wet tears still coating his cheeks, and as he looked at me, he took his small, chubby little hands and grabbed my face. Then he pointed to my nose and said «nowssssssssssssssssssssssssss.»

And that’s when I realized; I was so, so, so wrong.

It was about them. It IS about them. For that moment in time (and probably many more down the road), it IS all about THEM.

And that’s when I realized how utterly ungrateful I was being. How embarrassingly often I am and what had to change.

I had been so busy nursing my own ego, letting the job which already mentally removes me from my family for 40 hours a week eat even more into the precious time I had with them. And that’s when I figured it out; there were A LOT of things in my life «it wasn’t about,» but I had been wrong about most of them for a while now.

The truth is, my children will not be this innocent, this curious, this selfless, this full of unrelenting love for their whole lives. There will come a point, a few years from now, where they won’t want anything to do with me. They won’t need me to make their vegan cheese sandwiches into shapes and they won’t want to climb into my lap and nuzzle their heads into me just because it feels good.

So while I still have these times in front of me, I’m going to make it all about them.

You know the chores around the house? And the tiny tufts of dog and cat hair slowly building up in the probably-a-bit-too-dusty corners of our home? The ones that no matter how often I sweep, still find a way to form and wander through the house like a tumbleweed? It’s not all about THAT.

And those dishes, slowly piling up in the sink, the ones that should be soaking and then wiped clean before being placed in the dishwasher, they’re going to have to wait. Because when we’re talking about rinsing a few dishes or getting to read an extra Berenstain Bear’s story to my children, well, those dishes, it’s just not all about THEM.

And the week’s worth of backed up laundry? The mobs of clean clothes, slowly creeping up our basement steps, begging to be folded and put away? I’ll find time to do them at some point. But I’m not going to fret over it or worry myself. I’m not going tofeel guilty about snuggling in bed with my daughter for an extra 20 minutes while I neglect those mounds of clean clothes. Because it’s not all about laundry.

I’m a mother who works fulltime, I coach my daughter’s T-ball team, I give pitching lessons to multiple young athletes, I blog about our life, about my misgivings, about our veganism and I make as much time for family and friends and husband and wife moments as I can. But at the end of the day, it’s not all about those things. In fact, it never, ever should have been.

It’s important for the house to have some sense of organization, I get that. But the minute I let those priorities bleed into the way I mother my children, that’s the day I need to take a good long hard look at my life and remember what it really IS all about.

It’s about eskimo kisses. It’s about momma’s boy, daddy’s girl, it’s about pink lemonade, glasses covered in white flowers, noses, heads, all the body parts my tiny son can possibly compute in his brain. It’s about the sticky residue my son leaves all my face, neck and legs when he’s trying to love on me, the only way he knows how.

For this moment in time, it IS all about my kids, and that’s precisely the way it should be.

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