February 28, 2016

On Feelings, French Fries, and Frozen Chocolate

Sometimes, as a mom, you find yourself going a way you've never been before. (See Joshua 3:4.)

This happens a lot with my firstborn. Because she is my Learner Child, I'm always going some way with her I've never been before.

Once in a while along that way, we run into emotional roadblocks that are not moved by my usual bag of comfort tricks.

Which is when we find ourselves doing something we've never done before.

Which is what happened a few months ago. 

Which is why we found ourselves in our pajamas, in the car, speeding toward the Wendy's drive-through and Frosty-and-French-fry therapy at 10 o'clock one night when all my other attempts at comfort had fallen short.

I'm honored to be telling the rest of this tale on Mamalode, and I'd be so grateful if you went to the trouble of continuing this sweet and salty story over there now. 

But please allow me to apologize in advance if you're hit by a sudden craving for French fries and a Frosty.

If you need Frosty therapy
but can't make it to Wendy's,
try this Frozen Hot Chocolate.
The recipe's up over on Mamalode,
along with the rest of this saga.
Consider it a reward for making the trip.

February 15, 2016

You Might Be the Mom of a Tween Girl If...

If you read one of my most popular posts (thank you for that, by the way!), you already know whether you're a home schooler or not, courtesy of the brilliant checklist written by my friend, Julie. 

Because I'm not a home schooler, I couldn't write about being one, which is why I brought in Julie with her wit and wisdom. What I can write about, other than how NOT to paint a bedroom floor, is being the mom of a tween girl. I've already been one with both my now-teen daughter (who are, thanks for asking, still speaking to me)
I love being the mom of girls--and of older girls in particular. (I need something to wear! I hate my entire wardrobe! But hey...here's a whole other wardrobe to consider!) 

In fact, I wrote a whole post about how much I love having daughters. I'm crazy about my girls and can hardly believe I get the incredible honor calling them mine.

But since the learning curve on this particular mom gig doesn't look like it's ever going to entirely straighten out, here’s what I'm finding to be true these days--and what might be true for you, too, if you are (or might someday be) the mom of a daughter between the ages of 8 and 12 who dwells in the strange and wonderful world of tweendom.

1. You've heard something like this come out of her mouth at some point: “I hate feelings. First, you’re a girl. Then you have all these feelings. It all gets really messy. The only thing that got me through the day was that I knew I looked really cute.”

2. If anyone needs you, you’ll be in the car. Driving her somewhere, or dropping her off somewhere, or waiting to pick her up somewhere.

3. If anyone needs your daughter, and she’s not at school or at one of the places you’ve driven her to, she’s probably in her room.

4. You blame the hormones. It’s the hormones. It's definitely the hormones.

5. You get it: middle-school cool is a powerful force. But wanting to fit in does not make your daughter any less of an independent, confident, unique individual who is secure in her own self worth. It just means that if her lunch “tote” isn’t acceptable, it’ll never see the light of day. (Or, as the case may be, the fluorescent lights of the cafeteria.)

6. Your daughter amazes, perplexes, awes, frustrates, delights, maddens, inspires, and charms you. Often all in the same 24 hours.

7. White tank tops and black hair ties are items you buy in bulk.

8. There are all the bobby pins that have ever been produced in the history of the world. There are all the bobby pins you’ve bought in the history of your family. There are all the bobby pins under the couch cushions and on the floor of the car and in the laundry. And then there are all the bobby pins you will ever actually be able to find on any given morning. Which is possibly two.

9. When you ask her if she has any math homework, you’ll really, really want the answer to be “no.”

10. Whatever your daughter is reading, it's quite possibly part of a trilogy that takes place in a futuristic dystopian society.

11. #OOTD is a thing. (“Outfit of the day,” apparently.)

12. You've got some ideas for tween versions of those children’s books you used to read to her when she was little. Alexandra Is 12, So Every Day Is a Terrible, Horrible, No Good, Very Bad Day, maybe, or Are You My Mother—And Can You Pretend You’re Not When We’re Out in Public? See also Love You Forever (Even Though I'm Not Entirely Certain How Much I Actually Like You Right Now).

13. You just don’t ask when your daughter spends 45 minutes choosing an outfit and comes out of her room wearing jeggings and a t-shirt. 

14. When she was a baby, you remember thinking you’d catch up on your sleep some day when she was older. Now you recognize that this is not that day. (See #4.)

15. You have accepted that life runs more smoothly if “it” is clean. Whatever “it” is.

16. What you can safely say on a school morning amounts to a pretty short list: 1)yes, I like your hair like that; 2)yes, I like that outfit; 3) yes, I can give you some money.

17. On the other hand, what you might not want to say, according my friend Cristina--wife, mom, educator, Thirty-One consultant, and veteran tween-girl mom--could include the following "depending on the day, time, age, position of the sun, moon, stars, and whether or not you've washed the right clothes or fixed the right meal":
  • How was your day?
  • Did you study for your test?
  • What did you have to do for extra credit?
  • How was practice?
  • What did you do with [insert any friend's name] while you were at her house, while you were in your bedroom, while you were outside, etc.
  • Will you please unload the clean dishes, switch the laundry, load the dishes, put your trash in the trash can, not leave an empty box in the pantry, put your dirty dishes in the dishwasher (especially when it's wide open), clean the bathroom, etc...

18. You see someone across a room and think, "Who is that gorgeous, tall girl?" And then you realize she is your gorgeous, tall girl.

19. You're quickly figuring out that sometimes “fine” means “fine.” And sometimes it doesn’t.

20. You're beyond grateful that ice cream therapy works.

21. Your phone has become a mirror. As in, "Can I borrow your phone so I can take a picture of the back of my hair to make sure it looks okay?"

22. Your tween says something and leaves the room. You and another family member look at each other in silent reference to whatever it was your tween just said. From the other room, she yells, "I can hear you two looking at each other about me!" 

23. You're learning that about 90 percent of tween girl drama is not something you need to get involved in or, even worse, worry yourself sick over. For the most part, it smooths itself out if you just ride it out. (You understand, of course, that taking dark chocolate along for that ride helps a lot.)

24. You've been told that you are "the best mother in the world" on account of late-night laundry service to wash The Only Pair Of Jeans That Will Work With Tomorrow's Outfit. You speed-dial your attorney and ask him to prepare some sort of binding document in which your daughter swears to the validity of this designation. Because you well understand that you are The Best Mom In the World...until you are The Worst Mom In the World.

25. You can't believe how fascinating and beautiful and smart and talented and interesting your daughter is, any more than you can imagine life without her.

Are you (or have you been) in the mom-of-a-tween-daughter club? Add an item to this post in a comment or over on Facebook! And if you're not there yet, know this: being the mom of a tween girl is absolutely something to look forward to. As for those moments when it's a little rocky, well...see#4.

This post may have been a guest at some of these parties that are perfect for introverts.

February 10, 2016

Chocolate Cream Pie: A Love Story

I knew my husband was the one for me when he chose chocolate.

We met at church one summer Sunday a bunch of years ago, and after our first brief conversation, he wandered out to the foyer. A church lady offered him a leftover doughnut, and he picked one with chocolate frosting. At which point I thought, "Yeah, I could spend the rest of my life with that guy."

We got engaged a few months later, and I've spent our marriage bringing him fully into the land of chocolate, where I live. 

One of the chocolate desserts he loves best is chocolate cream pie. And I love my husband, so sometimes I make him chocolate cream pie.

My daughter Anna also loves chocolate cream pie. And I love my daughter Anna. So sometimes I make her chocolate cream pie, too.

Anna, in particular, is a chocolate-cream pie (CCP) fiend. When I ask what she wants for dessert, she'll answer "chocolate cream pie"--nonchalantly, as if I can just whip one up on the spur of the moment.

The thing is that my full-on CCP requires a significant commitment of time and the securing of certain special ingredients. But out of love for Anna and for my husband (and, admittedly, out of my own CCP addiction), I occasionally make the effort.

The Over-Achiever incarnation of CCP features the world's best pie crust (my mom's...so good it could make a grown man weep) and homemade chocolate pudding based on a gorgeous Dutch process cocoa worth the mail-order price tag. I top it off with whipped cream or whipped topping (more on that later) and a liberal shower of real chocolate sprinkles. 

By "real," I mean that they are made of actual chocolate that melts in your mouth as opposed to the usual type of hydrogenated-oil sprinkles that, as far as I know, don't melt anywhere.

I think this pie is worth the investment of time and money. But I know life sometimes calls for a CCP infusion when both time and money are short. So, I'm also offering a Cheater CCP: bake off a packaged pie crust, fill it with instant or cook 'n' serve chocolate pudding, slather it with whipped topping or whipped cream, and shower it with mini chocolate-chips--which while not "sprinkly" are, in fact, actual chocolate. 

(There are some compromises we cannot make in chocoholic land, and fake chocolate is one of them.)

OR: cobble together a Cheater Over-Achiever CCP using components of both recipes. In the interest of full disclosure, this is what I do, because I do not keep whipping cream in the house, but I do maintain a steady supply of "spray" whipped cream (actual cream in a handy if environmentally evil aerosol format) as well as totally-without-redemptive-qualities reduced-fat non-dairy whipped topping. 

Whichever road you take to get there, if your journey leads you to Chocolate Cream Pie, I think it was worth the trip.

Speaking of which, if you want the recipe for either Over-Achiever or Cheater Chocolate Cream Pie (or just the recipe for my mom's pie crust), I'll have to ask you to take a little trip over to the lovely Her View From Home. They let me ramble on every second Wednesday of the month, and this is what I'm rambling on about in February. While you do that (thank you, by the way), I'm taking a trip to the kitchen. Because now that I'm done blogging about this pie, my husband and younger daughter would like me to actually make them one.