January 31, 2017

10 Signs You Are Mom-Level Tired

I've never played Candy Crush on Facebook (or anyplace else, for that matter).

I understand this could be somewhere between amusing and bewildering. But the absence of Candy Crush in my personal history is not some sort of moral stance; it's just that if I have free time, I'd rather take a nap. And there are lots of other things most people have done that I've never dipped a toe into.(Working title for that post: "Stuff Most Other People Have Done That I Haven't.")

Anyway. From the little I know about this game, I gather there are numerous "levels" of achievement. Which made me think about levels of sleep deprivation and how mom-level exhaustion is equivalent to something along the lines of level 1500+ in Candy Crush? 

As moms, we might not all play Candy Crush, but we are all tired. To confirm that you have, in fact, reached mom-level exhaustion, check yourself against these tell-tale signs.

1. You open the microwave to get something out of the toaster. 

2. You brew a cup of coffee in your Keurig without putting a cup on the drip tray. Which is how you figure out that the smart people at Keurig designed the drip tray to hold exactly one cup of coffee. Very helpful.

3. When you watch a movie in which any scene is set in a bedroom, you gaze longingly at the bed and think how comfortable and inviting it looks and how you just want to CRAWL INTO IT FOR THE LOVE OF EVERYTHING GOOD.

4. When you prepay for gas and the card reader asks "is this a debit card?" you are stymied by the question. Yes? No? Maybe? Really, this is just so confusing.

5. You see this in the checkout lane at the grocery store and immediately think, "Send the children to grandma's." 

6. You throw a load of laundry into the washing machine without even realizing the load you did two days ago but never transferred to the dryer is still in there.

7. You frequently have a thought that goes something like this (often while standing, bewildered, in your pantry): 

8. While making breakfast, you ask your daughter if she wants fruit or a spoon to go with her fork.

9. Your Mother's Day wish list looks like this:

10. You have no trouble whatsoever understanding why the most-viewed post I've ever put up was called "8 Ways to Fight Mom Exhaustion (Other Than Actually Getting More Sleep)."

11. You put 11 items on a 10-item list. (As long as you're here, though, I'l give you one more: you dream of nothing so much as a solid night's sleep.)

I promise it does get better, mamas. Teenage sleep is a THING, and it's fabulous for the teenager's mom, too. But in the meantime, what level of mom-tired are you at these days? If you're not so exhausted you can't even stand to answer the question, go ahead and share in a comment or on Facebook. And just know that scores of mom are nodding blearily in agreement.

**This post may have been shared at some of these blog bashes.**

January 23, 2017

Life By Chocolate Pie (Brownie Chocolate Mousse Pie)

Recently, after an exhaustive research session (key components: me, Google, and my morning cup of coffee-flavored creamer), I learned that "Death By Chocolate" is a term applied to various desserts featuring chocolate as their main ingredient. 

It is true that if God calls me home while I'm eating chocolate (a very likely scenario, by the way, since I am often eating chocolate), I'll die happy. Still, I felt burdened to defend my favorite food group against affiliation with possible demise.

Hence, this "Life By Chocolate Pie."

This easy pie is really nothing more than a bunch of melted chocolate into which you fold some egg whites beaten with sugar and then bake off. You can drizzle it with caramel or serve it in a pool of raspberry sauce. You can make it minty by adding a little peppermint extract to the beaten egg whites and serving it with chocolate syrup melted together with peppermint patties. However you take it, I think you'll be glad you're alive to enjoy the pleasure.

Life By Chocolate Pie {print}

1 9" pie crust...whatever kind you like. I make a press-in tart crust and put it in an 11" quiche pan that I think my husband and I got as a wedding gift a zillion years ago. But this recipe works just fine in a 9" pie pan. If you're using a refrigerated crust, make sure it's been baked for about 10 minutes but no more. If it's a crumb crust (Oreo, graham, whatever) that you're making yourself, bake it for about 5 minutes. The crust does not need to be cooled before you fill it. If you're buying a prebaked crumb crust, you'll all set. 

1 1/2 cups chocolate chips (semisweet, bittersweet, dark) OR 9 ounces chocolate (not more than 60% cacao, though), finely chopped
3 egg whites without so much as a trace of yolk in them, in a very clean bowl
1/4 tsp. cream of tartar (yes, this matters)
1 teaspoon vanilla
6 tablespoons sugar 
1/8 teaspoon salt (yes, this matters too)

Heat the oven to 350 degrees. Meanwhile, melt the chocolate chips or chopped chocolate in a medium bowl or saucepan until smooth and, well, melted. (The microwave is the best place to melt chocolate, BTW.) Make sure there is NO water in the bowl or you will have a mess. Set aside. 

In a very clean large bowl with very clean beaters (wipe down with a little vinegar if you're not sure...are you sure?), beat the egg whites, vanilla, and cream of tartar until they form soft, droopy peaks. Add the sugar and salt and beat until they form stiff peaks but are NOT dry. Pour melted chocolate over the beaten egg whites and GENTLY fold together until you don't have big streaks of chocolate. Pour/spoon into your prepared pie shell and smooth the top. Bake at 350 for about 10 minutes until the surface looks dry and starts to crack a little...it will also be somewhat "risen." Don't overbake! Remove from oven and cool at least a little or all the way. Can be served warm, at room temp, or chilled. Serve with adornments and decorations.

Adornments and decorations:
whipped cream (any "version")
shaved chocolate or chocolate syrup or caramel sauce or mini chocolate chips or raspberry sauce or strawberry sauce or fresh berries or whatever

Makes 1 9" pie.

This post may have been shared at some of these blog bashes.

January 19, 2017

Ten Things That Are Overrated

After I confessed in a guest post on Parent.co that being nice is, um, not a reputation I bear the burden of, one of my favorite responses was this: "nice is overrated." (Thanks for the grace, Megan!) To be clear, I am not in any way saying that being kind is overrated. I don't think it's actually possible to overrate the value of kindness.

A few days later, my friend Cristina--fellow Mother of a Teenage Girl--messaged me to report that her daughter had remarked that "fair is overrated." Which made me think of a whole post about overrated things. Which I suggested Cristina write. Which she, being just that fabulous, ran with. Which is why you're looking at this list right now.

Thank you, Cristina and Jordyn. Don't take this the wrong way, but you are both very, very nice.

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The summer of 2016 was the first since 2005 that I've had an entire summer with my children and husband. When I started in public school administration in August of 2005, my son, Adam (AJ), was one month shy of turning four, and my daughter, Jordyn, was nineteen months. Since that time, I've had approximately three weeks with them each summer, and often it was interrupted.

In July, I learned I was going to have to have major surgery, which meant my mom (an angel in disguise) would be spending a lot of time with us. During one of our trips in the car, to who-knows-where because we did not travel last summer, we were discussing some topic of minor importance when Jordyn proclaimed, “Fair is overrated!”

I knew that my friend Elizabeth would appreciate this profound statement and shared it with her. She, not surprisingly, responded, “That would make a great article.” I initially thought, no, I do not want to write about how being fair is overrated. But then I quickly realized she meant that many things are overrated; write about that.

With surgery approaching quickly, I thought I would have plenty of time to write this article; after all, I would be bored and recovering. Ha! As I sat at my kitchen counter after taking my children to the bus stop for their first day of school, I had some uninterrupted time. Please note: this was the first time ever that I had been able to be involved in the first day of school with them. I was usually preparing for 800 other students to arrive on their first day, or I was having my first day as a classroom teacher myself (last year). My surgery allowed me to get up and cook breakfast and take them to the bus stop. And the opportunity to write this will be added to my little moments of enjoyment that I'll chalk up to "Mom’s list of important moments"-- which is not the same as my children’s!

It only seems right to begin this list with the one that started it all; the rest are in no particular order.

1. Fairness. After spending over twenty years in education, hearing my daughter say these words at age thirteen, and as the summer Olympics ended, was heartwarming. Life is not fair; this is a lesson all parents try to impart to their children but are never sure they understand why. I certainly did not expect to hear this from my daughter, who has attended three middle schools in less than a year and participated in multiple try-outs for club and school sports and whose brother started a new district as he entered high school and who also has tried out for multiple sports. 

My children rarely received special recognition when they attended the middle school where I was the principal because, after all, the assumption would have been that they would have only received it because I was the principal. After years of training focused on building children’s self-esteem, plenty of experience with no-cut sports, and having our personal life totally upturned when my new superintendent offered to buy me out of my contract a year ago for no apparent reason, I can say this: fair is overrated. My children have both learned that in ways I never hoped they would. Yet, they have grown into such a mature perspective on life. They are becoming people I am confident will understand this life lesson well, and it will take them far in life.

2. Name brands. This is a two-fold issue. First, name brands and trends flood the market and add to social issues at school. I've always been a proponent in favor of school uniforms...having been a product of Catholic schools, clothes never played an issue in our days. Children can have many more pieces of clothing that cost less and look just as nice. On the other hand, many of the name brands are made with a quality that cannot compare, but our philosophy in the Eyre household is that we will buy what we know fits well, wears well, and that we can afford. TJ Maxx, Zulily and many other discount stores enable us to afford name brands. This also allows for our children to truly appreciate when they do get a name brand item, and they take care of it because they understand the value and the gift that it is.

3. Perfect parties. Both my husband, Mark, and I are educators, serving mostly the middle school and high school populations over our careers. As a result, I often thought that our children were suffering because neither Mark nor I have patience to add more children to our home on a regular basis, let alone plan the “perfect party." There were times that due to lack of time and energy our children did get great parties--that we paid to take place elsewhere. But it was never because we were trying to keep up with the next family. (I cannot use "keeping up with the Joneses" or "keeping up with the Smiths" because they are real friends in our lives!)

4. Planned mother/daughter or mother/son days. Due to the often limited amount of time I had available, I thought creating these days was so important--to add to the memory of bank of my children’s experiences. But I quickly learned this was more about me than them. Most importantly, I learned that unplanned spontaneity created the most fun, loving, memorable experiences. Stop trying to "create" and just try to enjoy the moments along the way.

Being in a position of power. It was never because of the "power" behind the job that I truly enjoyed my position as a middle-school principal. Instead, I loved being able to make a positive difference with students, teachers and parents. The power in the position was in the daily impact I could have. You have that opportunity in any job; it’s what you make of it. Make the most of being kind, positive, and a model of Christian decision-making.
"The power in the position was in the daily impact I could have. You have that opportunity in any job; it’s what you make of it." 
6. Making a lot of money. Yes, there can be ease in how much money you bring home, but I quickly learned that the money I was earning came at a huge sacrifice: my family. My children often thought of my first home as my office and my second home as Meijer (our grocery store). I realized very quickly that we can be happier if we are living more moderately and placing a higher value on our time together.

7. Speaking your mind. One of my strengths--yet one of my weaknesses--is speaking my mind. I learned very quickly that not all people appreciate complete honesty. Complete honesty comes at a cost, so I have tempered my outspoken nature to be more positive and thoughtful when answering questions. I often turn my thoughts over to God in prayer: let Him be the revealer of the truth, not me.

8. Being social. Comparing yourself to others often comes with the more social you are. I craved interaction with others always. That came with a cost, though. Although I did not realize that I was comparing myself to others, being social can have that effect, and I was exhausted. Everyone has their issues, problems, etc. No one is perfect. I am much happier surrounded by my immediate family and those we hold dear. I certainly appreciate my introvert husband more than before and treasure our alone, quiet, comfortable time.

9. Mentioning plans, ideas, etc., out loud to your children. I have learned it is best to keep things a surprise. Kids hear an idea and hold you to it; they think it is a promise. Then, if it does not come into fruition, they are disappointed, and you feel like a failure as a parent. Life happens, plans change; let plans evolve more spontaneously...children will be more excited, and parents will enjoy them more.

10. Trying to do things by yourself. I started thinking about this article over a year ago, even before Jordyn's proclamation, and this item had a very different meaning then. At that time, I was focused on how important it is to have a circle of friends who will pray for you--I dubbed them my prayer warriors--because I could not face my life’s challenges without prayer, God, and my faith. These are still existent in my life, but they are more embedded. This fall though, this point took on a different kind of meaning. Our family lost my sister-in-law, Michelle, very unexpectedly. We needed so much help during this season, and it was a time when my outspoken nature was appreciated. I asked for the help we needed and said "no, thank you" to the things we did not need at the time. Friends and family who did not know how to help were given the direction they needed, and I was given the assurance that lessened my stress.

On the other hand, these are some of the things I've learned to treasure...

1. Presence.

2. Quality time.
3. Spontaneity.
4. Priceless time in the car with each child individually.
5. Planning and preparing meals.
6. Completing projects.
7. Reciprocal, quality friendships.
8. Budgeting.
9. Keeping my mouth shut: nodding, smiling, and praying for God’s guidance.
10. My faith, especially my alone time with God as the sun rises or sets, as I soak in the fields around my home in the country.

About Cristina: I am a 45-year-old wife to Mark (16 years of marriage), mother of two teenagers--Adam (AJ...15) and Jordyn (14), and a woman of strong faith who loves to serve others. I have been a public educator for twenty-three years, serving as a teacher, counselor and administrator. Currently, I am focused on growing my faith, on my business as a Thirty-One Consultant, and on working with alternative education youth. I am always searching for how to better myself as a mom, wife and woman of God...Lord knows I can always improve. I love reading, writing, cooking, swimming, biking, sunrises, and sunsets. My favorite place is on my couch, curled up in front of the fireplace.

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In case you're just dying of curiosity, here's the link to that Parent.co piece. But a word of warning/mom-vent alert: if Mother's Day is your favorite holiday, you'll probably want to skip this one.

This post may have been shared at some of these blog bashes.

Photo credit: Billy Frank Alexander 

January 10, 2017

Triple Chocolate Marshmallow Cookies


Four years ago, when my oldest daughter started marching band (yes, I promise this does relate to the cookies), I went to my first-ever high school football game. Everyone had on their team colors and shirts with our school name, but I told my husband, "I want a shirt that says, 'I'm just here for the band.'" I meant no disrespect for the football team, but I wanted to demonstrate my allegiance and passion for our under-appreciated marching band. 

We did end up getting shirts made, but my point is this: I know you're just here for the cookies. March on.

Triple Chocolate Marshmallow Cookies {print}

**Annoying-but-worth-it fact: the dough for these cookies cooperates better if you allow about an hour for chilling.**

What you need:
24 large round marshmallow OR 12 "s'more marshmallows," such as Jet-Puffed S'moreMallows (these are now available year-round, praise the Lord, in the marshmallow section of the grocery store...they're more tender and marshmallowy than other shapes on account of more marshmallow interior and less exterior cornstarchy coating)

1/2 cup (1 stick) unsalted butter, at room temperature

1/2 cup granulated sugar

1/3 cup firmly packed brown sugar

1 egg

1 teaspoon vanilla

1 1/2 cups plus 2 tablespoons all-purpose flour

2 packets (about 1 ounce each) instant cocoa mix (do not use sugar-free...I love Swiss Miss Dark Chocolate Sensation)

1/2 teaspoon baking powder

1/4 teaspoon baking soda

1/4 teaspoon salt

1/3 cup semisweet chocolate chips or chunks

1/3 cup milk chocolate chips or chunks or mini "kisses"

What to do:
1. Before you do anything else on these cookies (and you can do this up to several months ahead of time!), cut your marshmallows into pieces with kitchen scissors you've coated with vegetable oil or cooking spray: if you're using large round marshmallows, cut them in half horizontally. If you're using s'more marshmallows, cut them into sixths. Put your cut marshmallows in the freezer until further notice. You're going to all this hassle because marshmallows tend to disappear in the oven if they haven't been given the deep chill first. It will be worth the work, I promise.

2. Cream the butter and both sugars together until light and fluffy. Beat in the egg and the vanilla.

3. In a separate bowl, whisk together the flour, the NOT-sugar-free cocoa mix packets, the baking powder and baking soda, and salt.

4. Add the dry ingredients to your butter-sugar mixture and mix just until combined. 

5. Stir in the semisweet and milk chocolate chips/chunks.

6. Cover and chill for an hour. Your marshmallow pieces should still be camping out in the freezer.

7. Preheat your oven to 350 degrees. Coat a baking sheet with nonstick cooking spray or line it with parchment paper.

8. Form 1 1/2 tablespoon portions of dough into balls and place about an inch apart on the baking sheet. Do not flatten them. Your marshmallow pieces should STILL be in the freezer.

9. Bake the cookies for 4 minutes. Remove your marshmallow pieces from the freezer; open the oven door; and place marshmallow pieces in the center of each cookie. If you cut up large round marshmallows, use 2 pieces; if you cut up square "s'more marshmallows," use 3 pieces. You can overlap them a little.

10. Close the oven door. Return your remaining marshmallow pieces to the freezer, and bake the cookies for 4 more minutes. The marshmallows should be a least a little browned, and the cookie edges should be just starting to crack. Don't overbake these...gooey is good.

11. Remove from oven and cool on the cookie sheet for 2 minutes before removing to a wire rack to cool a little more or completely. If you have a kitchen blow torch (my favorite kitchen tool, as evidenced by its spot on this list), you can fire it up and give your marshmallows a little campfire-esque burn.

12. Repeat with remaining dough and marshmallow pieces (although you'll probably have some of those left over). Makes 18-24 cookies.

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The back of the aforementioned shirt, in case you've just been dying of curiosity...

This post may have been shared at some of these link parties.