The Good Old Days

I spent a lovely evening (without kids!!) watching a slideshow of my grandmother and her family. My great-grandmother had taken many pictures during her daughter’s childhood, and even had a few from her own.

I enjoyed sitting with my current extended family and reminiscing on memories and events. “That was their first house.” “Oh, look! I remember that car!” “She loved that outfit so much!”

When people talk about the past, they tend to remember the best parts. They have photographic proof of the best parts, too: the family vacations, beloved car, high school friends, favorite toys, and every year’s Christmas trees.

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In fact, I often hear folks nowadays fondly recalling what has been and wishing that we could return to those times.

During conversations with a friend about my children, he said, “In the old days, people would have just said, ‘Boys will be boys,’ and not tried to raise them as girls.” I’ve had neighbors say, “Children used to play outside all day and we never worried about strangers.” Talking to old people in general makes me think I live in a war-torn ghetto instead of a nice suburban neighborhood.

The truth is that every time has its ups and downs. Even during tonight’s family photo slideshow, there were a few snippets of reality.

“That’s Gertrude*. She died of the Spanish ‘Flu. They buried her while seven months pregnant.” “Ha! I remember that halter top. I thought I was pretty hot stuff wearing it.” “There’s that old car, Gramps. Didn’t you and grandma make out a lot in that?” (The answer was affirmative.)

Boys might have been boys, and they also might have been legally paddled by schoolteachers. We may have had more children outside, but they had lead paint and childhood diseases that led to death.

I bring this all up as a helpful reminder that we ought not to beat ourselves up too much about the way things are compared to how they were.

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Yes, we need to raise our families and spend time outside and love our children so much. But, we do not need to compare ourselves to a bygone age. We do not need to feel poorly for not building a wagon in our tool shop with our four-year-old son. Whatever relative did that most likely endured hours of yelling, mismatched parts, hammered fingers, and an end product that rolled somewhat lopsidedly.

In any time, it’s the thought that counts. And the family time.

 

*Names changed.

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Sunday, March 24: “A Verry Unmerry Birthday to You,” my lamentations regarding birthdays as a mother.

Monday, March 25: “A Poem About Procrastination,” a quick little ditty about shirking responsibility.

Tuesday, March 26: Shared a quote from Pinterest. It’s inspirational. Sort-of.

Wednesday, March 27: Served a Dinner Tip about easy meals.

Thursday, March 28: Posted a quick thought about finding your children.

Friday, March 29: Advised you all to stick to your guns in “Don’t Give In, and Stay Sane Doing So.”

Saturday, March 30: Shared SAHM_RN‘s tweet about shared responsibility.

Sunday, March 31: Today!

Photo Credit:
Laura Fuhrman
Amy Treasure

Children’s Songs You Can Stand to Listen To

Some people are irritated by very specific things: nails on chalkboards, a supervisor’s voice, forks on a ceramic plate, or animals chewing with their mouth open.

For me, it’s children singing.

Now, now, now -don’t get up in arms and start defending anyone. Don’t ask me whether I’m a good mother, cringing whenever my offspring try to carry a tune. That’s not it at all. My real hate is when children sing what they ought not to.

Don’t believe me? Go listen to that devil’s creation: Kid’s Bop. Oh, wait. It’s spelled “Kidz Bop.”

Children singing off-key and innocently to pop songs would be my eternal torment. Actually -eternal torment would be facing a mundane chore like piles of laundry or dishes; and when I am literally folding the last sock or washing the last pan, something dumps another hour’s worth of work in front of me.

Wait a minute…

So, getting back to children doing terribly irritating things, I thought I’d save anyone else the trouble of torture by providing a list of songs geared toward young children that will not drive you completely batty (er… more completely batty).

1. Caspar Babypants
Did you ever listen to “Peaches,” “Lump,” or “Video Killed the Radio Star,” by The Presidents of the United States of America? If not, do yourself a solid and check them out. “Peaches,” alone is worth watching; I do so with my offspring frequently. Weird Al even parodied “Lump” with a song titled “Gump.”

That lead singer, whatshisname (Chris Ballew) went on to produce and sing a whole crapload of songs once he settled down and made mini hims. I like a lot of them; they’re cute, catchy, and have good lyrical and musical aspects.

2. Banaphone
This is an oldie but a goodie. I can’t allow the kiddos to replay this one as often as Babypants, but it’s still fun.

They also like the video, so win-win.

3. They Might Be Giants, for kids
TMBG has clever songs for all ages. The singer’s a bit nasally, but their lyrics are educational. Admittedly, we listen to much of the Apollo 18 soundtrack with our children as well; but those aren’t specifically for a younger audience (say, like when I mute that tiny cuss word at the start of “I Palindrome I”).

I respect a band that tries to keep things scientifically accurate. Like, releasing a new sun song when they felt the old one was misinforming.

4. Lots of classical pieces
My nerdy childhood was spent listening to the classical station on the radio and trying to be a snob of a higher degree. I listen to a wide variety of music now; and, by proximity, so do my children.

Still, music of this sort has the following advantages: clean, enlightening, traditional, timeless, and the YouTube videos don’t usually have some animated character dancing around and causing listeners to just stare at a screen.

5. Instrumental covers of awesome songs
Yes, the originals are better. For all the benefits I outlined above (like, no swearing or questionable video content), I will sometimes put these on to play while we’re cleaning the house.

And yes, these are not geared toward kids. It’s my list, though, so I make the rules.

6. Super Simple Songs
Now here’s a company who knows its audience. These are NOT songs to play if you don’t want small children staring at a screen, so maybe play it from computer speakers with the monitor turned off?

For a good half-hour or hour of needing to use the bathroom and text and adult, I am in favor of playing them as-is.

Super Simple Songs are almost annoying. I certainly wouldn’t pick them for an eternal playlist, but I will listen to quite a few without tearing my ears off my head.

7. Parry Gripp
If you have children, you have probably heard of “It’s Raining Tacos.” Don’t worry -I’m not going to suggest you listen to Parry Gripp all day long. I merely threw it on here because they’re fun, my spawn enjoy many of them, and I liked them back before they were annoying cool.

In fact, “Mr. Raisin Toast” was the first of theirs we listened to.

8. The Muppets
Again, these fall into the “watch it, too” category. But, you know -Sesame Street. Nostalgia. Subtle humor that doesn’t involve farting (always a plus when one has all boys, like me).

That’s about all I can remember for tonight. Besides these, do YOU have any to suggest? Don’t be shy; we’re always open to new songs and artists.

 

Originally posted at my main writing site.

Dear Son / Dear Mom

Dear Son,

I try to love you, but you make it difficult. I see love as soft affection, listening considerately to my advice, and respecting my intelligence.

I get calls and e-mails home from school about concerns parents have for their children who play with you. When I ask you about what happened; you respond with complete ignorance, offended honor, or adamant disagreement.

Your instructors ask me what I recommend for working with you. If I knew, don’t you think I’d tell? Sometimes I ask you. You laugh and say, “I don’t know!”

I will keep trying, because you are my son. I hope that you will grow out of many of these things so that you will be successful in life and have the many friends you love to play with.

Love,
Mom

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Dear Mom,

I try to love you, but you push me away. I like to hug you really tight so you can see how strong I am and how much I love you! I see love as giving me what makes me happy, surprising me with fun games or treats or fun places to go, and agreeing with me when it’s my brothers’ fault!

Sometimes the teachers don’t listen to me. I try to tell them that I accidentally bumped his head or meant to just throw snow at his coat and not down inside it. That one time, it was really my friend who pushed her down, but she thought it was me. I usually don’t remember, because we’re having fun.

My teachers move my peg down when we’re still talking and they get to “1” counting down. Can I make a chart for home with pegs? Then you can move my peg up or down and I can have computer time.

When I grow up, I want to be a computer programmer like Dad and work with him and eat lunch with him. I will buy a house on this street so I can visit you.

I love you Mom,
Charlie

 

Originally posted at chelseaannowens.com.

Garbage Bag Vampire

Today is the day I realized that Halloween is next week. NEXT WEEK!!

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Given my more lax (AKA lazy) approach to parenting lately, we don’t exactly have costumes picked out for everyone. My boys have talked about it, of course, but haven’t settled on anything. Our conversations have been more like:

Boy: I think I’ll be a knight.

Me: Well, you’re welcome to what we have.

Boy: Hmmm. Maybe I’ll be a ghost.

Me: There might be a clean sheet. Go for it.

While we were watching Casper as a family, I laughed at the father suggesting his daughter wrap up in tin foil and go as a leftover. Frankly, we’re at about that point. It’s probably a sign of how tired and laid-back (AKA lazy) I’ve gotten lately that I think, They can just go out in jeans and sweatshirts and our neighbors will still give them candy.

Heck, the kids will be warmer that way.

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Besides actually needing to do work and feeling burned-out at that idea, I feel averse to yet another holiday that is picking my pockets for every last penny. An event that used to have old ladies handing out inedible peanut butter taffies to kids in toilet paper has morphed into full-on haunted houses, king size candy bars, and working Transformer costumes.

My husband’s childhood go-to was throwing a black garbage bag over his shoulders, digging out the previous year’s fake teeth, and going as a vampire.

Those were simpler times; times when society knew expensive costumes weren’t worth $60. Times when maybe the old lady with the taffies also gave out delicious scones and knew your name and where you lived. Times when families went out together and had a good time.

This year laziness (AKA -oh, I finally owned it) may just be the motivation I need to make the better choice: creativity and fun instead of store-bought and expensive.

Maybe all the boys will agree to be ghosts.

The Cheapest, Bestest Dinner Ideas, IV

We’re taking a short break from breakfast today and talking soup instead.

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Do you remember the children’s story, Stone Soup? Some soldiers who were super hungry couldn’t get the tight-fisted villagers to help a stranger out so they cleverly opened the clenched palms one ingredient at a time. As a kid, I thought that was merely a great way to pull one over on everyone. As an adult, I’ve realized that soup is one of the best ways to whip up a meal with little or nothing around the house.

Well… that and casserole. But I grew up in a house where ‘casserole’ became almost as dirty a word as ‘meatloaf,’ so I tend to avoid those mixed-leftovers things.

My top favorite non-casserole extra-food-mix meal is Chicken Tortilla Soup. I found a great recipe over at allrecipes.com and it’s been my go-to whenever we haven’t had it for a while.

My secret for this is to use leftover chicken (fried up in the obligatory spices), extra-chunky salsa, and have the other ingredients on hand. Keeping tortilla chips around, alone, will help prepare you for at least three other meals. And I’ve already talked about the wonders of pre-shredded cheddar cheese.

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If you buy the super-huge bottle, you can make this every week!

The other staples I have around are oil (of course!), minced garlic, cumin, chicken broth, frozen corn, lemon juice, chopped onion (frozen), chili powder, and salsa –whoa! I keep everything ready for this meal!

Chicken Tortilla Soup

Ingredients

Skinless, boneless chicken breast or pieces – about 1.5 lbs
1/2 tsp oil
1/2 tsp minced garlic
1/4 tsp ground cumin
2 (14.5 oz) cans chicken broth -about 4 cups
1 cup frozen corn kernels
1/2 cup chopped onion
1/2 tsp chili powder
1 Tbsp lemon juice
1 cup chunky salsa

Toppings
Tortilla chips, sour cream, shredded Monterey jack or cheddar cheese, guacamole or chopped avocado

Necessary Materials

Cutting board and knife
Measuring spoons
Measuring cup
Soup pot
Ladle
Can opener
Grater, if cheese is not pre-shredded

Directions

  1. Cut the chicken breast or leftover chicken into bite-sized cubes.
  2. In a large soup pot over medium heat, cook and sauté chicken cubes in the oil for 5-10 minutes.
  3. Add the garlic and cumin and mix well.
  4. Add the broth, corn, onion, chili powder, lemon juice, and salsa. Reduce heat to low and simmer uncovered for about 20-30 minutes.
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  5. Serve the soup in individual bowls. Top with crushed tortilla chips, sour cream, shredded cheese, and guacamole or avocado -according to taste.

The sour cream thickens the soup and balances out that spicy kick from the chili powder and salsa. Even my son who hates sour cream adds some to his soup because of this.

Besides the appeal of the flavor and the healthy factor, I think my kids like this meal because they get to smash a bunch of chips in their hands and then stir everything in mad scientist-style.

This is an easy, cheap, healthy meal that takes about half an hour to make if you have all the ingredients ready to go. I like to make it in general, but also get a hankering whenever I have a cold and/or the weather is cold.

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