Monday, December 14, 2015

Cookie Marketing

I am generally not too swayed by marketing. Cynical by nature, I see through the bull easily....and yet...

Pinterest is of the devil. It is brain-washing at its finest. I see pictures of families doing "fun" things and I think

"OH MY GOSH!! What a great idea! My kids would love to make hand-prints/use sensory bins/make Christmas cookies!"

I forget, that in reality, nothing actually looks like Pinterest. This is truth, sisters. I know. I have been sucked in to the deep, dark marketing hole that is that stupid site which I love. And I do it again and again and again. My innate cynicism about all things seems to fail when it comes to ideas from Pinterest.

My most recent stumble? Decorating Christmas cookies with small children. This is what I was promised:

Mom is so happy! The mess is neatly contained! The kids are enjoying themselves! WHAT A GREAT IDEA!! And don't even get me started on all the adorable cookie pictures of snowmen, Santa, gingerbread people, the delish frosted tress and wreaths. I relive wonderful cookie decorating memories of my childhood, what a delight to pass on such a fun tradition!

I tell the kids "we are making cookies!!" they are thrilled. "See, Pinterest TOTALLY comes through", I think to myself while dodging 4 short people in an attempt to organize ingredients. Kid #3 asks to crack the eggs and only drops half of one shell in the dough. Kid #4 decides to add just a touch more flour while mixer is going and dusts everything within a 10 foot radius in fine, white powder.

No problem! We are making memories!!

Flour swept up, egg shell retrieved, dough is ready to roll out. Each kid insists they will "help" with the rolling, taking turns, counting rolls, while I hold back my desire to edit. I mean, no biggie that half the dough is still 2 inches thick and the other has been smooshed into a transparent, sticky film. We can adjust it later.

Now the dough just needs to chill...for 2 hours.

Want to know the LONGEST way to spend 2 hours? Waiting for dough to chill with 4 children asking every 30 seconds if it is ready yet. Understandable, they are just so excited! "This is a good thing", I tell myself, as I set the oven timer for kids to watch. Cue 4 small children watching a timer count down...

Dough is ready and each child is given a bit to make there own cookies while I adjust the thickness to cookie level. Kid #1 meticulously rolls out dough. No one on the face of this planet has EVER taken more time to roll dough flat. Kid #2 promptly sticks her elbow in the middle of her sisters dough, causing eldest child to approach unhinged. Dough fixed, relationship repaired as kid 4 has massaged, flattened and abused his dough into a sticky paste that is now covering his hands. And face. And counter where he was working, despite the waxed paper. And the dough has taken on a suspicious gray color...I don't even want to know why. Pinterest must have left out the picture of the man-handled gray cookie dough rolled by 3 year olds.

Cookies are cut and baked (except the odd gray was tossed while #4 wasn't looking) And now the cookies must cool before we decorate. We prepare the stations: waxed paper, bowls of frosting, shakers of sprinkles! Yay! We could TOTALLY be a Pinterest family.

Each child chooses 5 cookies to decorate. But sister #1 took the cookie sister #3 wanted, so negotiation ensues. I might be raising at least one lawyer...and not the good kind...the kind you see on day time TV ads. Everyone is set...let the frosting begin!

Sister #1 is the worlds SLOWEST cookie decorator and would still be at it but she ran out of frosting. After perfecting a tree, she shows sister #2 who excitedly gestures with a frosting covered knife, promptly knocking the tree-cookie-masterpiece to the wall where it smears green frosting. Knife flinging sister also manages to get frosting in her hair.

Kid #4 alternates between smudging cookies with frosting, licking off the dripping cookies, and seeing how much colored sugar he can manage to stick to said saliva covered cookie. I make a mental note to NOT share these with friends...or anyone but him. Do you know what color green and red frosting make when mixed? A kind of poop brown. I now have 5 poop colored cookies that have been pre-licked.

Sister #3 knocks the colored sugar to the floor, and, when bending to retrieve it, manages to pull the keep-things-neat place-mat of waxed paper to the floor too. 5 cookies have now spent time on the floor among copious amount of sugar, chocolate chips, frosting drips, and various decorations.

I pour a glass of wine...for Christmas cheer of course. Are there really NO clumsy children on Pinterest?! Apparently not, because they all live at my house.

Sister #2 thinks sister #3 is using all the white, while sister #3 declares loudly that she is not the boss, kid #4 eats spoonfuls of white frosting. Sister #1 comments that my cookies are prettier than hers and proceeds to start pouting. Kids #4 has moved from frosting consumption to eating straight colored sugar.

I start wondering if it is too early to drink some festive whisky laced know...for Christmas Cheer.

Discuss with eldest that I have a few more years of cookie decorating under my belt than she has. Remove kid #4 from table as he shoves a handful of Chocolate chips into his mouth. He vibrates with sugar-high energy.

Daughters #1-3 finish the holiday cookie decorating. Green frosting is chiseled off the wall. Hair is washed free from rouge red frosting attack. All clothing worn is tossed in the laundry. I mutter curses to Pinterest pictures who have set crazy standards I will never hit.

That evening before bed, while enjoying freshly decorated cookies and hot coco we discuss our favorite parts of the day. Without fail, every kid remembers the cookie decorating fondly. HOW THE HELL IS THAT POSSIBLE? Were we not decorating cookies at the same house? Or maybe it is just me who missed the "Christmas Magic", after all, we listened to Christmas music, hung out with family, ate copious amounts of sugar, and...maybe made some Pinterest worthy memories after all.

Saturday, December 12, 2015

Gluten Free Sugar Cookies

I have made some really crappy cookies in my life. Though this sounds a bit like it might be a metaphor (might have to explore that angle later...) in this case I am TRULY talking about cookies. For real.

I have been on a quest to make a good loaf of GF Sourdough and a good batch of sugar cut-out cookies. While the sourdough experiments have most recently ended with me uttering obscenities and tossing out very sketchy looking starter after making a multiple batches of rolls that could double as weapons, my cookie quest is now at an end for different reasons.

Friends, loved ones, blog followers....I HAVE NAILED IT. I made cookies that not only have a dough that is easy to work with, but stay soft baked, hold their shape when made into cut-outs, and taste delish. Also, this is a respectable size batch of cookies, so you won't spend 18 hours frosting the little friggin' snow men that your children insisted on cutting out. This batch makes about 2 dozen, give or take.

HA! Suck that, stupid celiac disease!!

Because I am a sharing person (and I don't want to have to share the ACTUAL cookies...I'm not that sharing) I will bless you all with the recipe. Your welcome. Now go and make copious amount of cookies to decorate.

Gluten Free Cut-Out Cookies

1 cup butter
1 cup sugar
2 t. vanilla flavor
1 t. almond flavor (not required, but tasty, trust me on this)
2 eggs
1/2 t. salt
1/2 t. baking powder
1 1/3 c. rice/GF oat flour
1 1/3 c. starch (tapioca is best, but potato or corn will work)
1/3 c. coconut flour
1 1/2 t. xanthan gum

Mix all dry ingredients in bowl and set aside. Cream together butter and sugar. Add eggs one at a time. Add flavorings. With mixer on low add the dry ingredients. When all incorporated, scoop out onto a piece of waxed paper sprinkled with starch. Dough will be thick, heavy and a bit sticky. With slightly damp hands, pat flat, or roll out if it doesn't stick to badly to your rolling pin. Cool in fridge, on waxed paper (or, in my case, in the garage) until dough is very stiff. At least an hour, maybe a bit more. After dough is stiff and cold, use the rolling pin to get it to 1/4 inch thick and cut with cookie cutters. Place on cookie sheets and bake 8-10 minutes. Cookies should look dry on top, but not hardly any brown if you want them soft. Cool on sheets for 10 minutes until moving them to cooling rack. Cool all the way before decorating.

Monday, November 16, 2015

Joy in Learning

I am an ADD homeschooler. Maybe all homeschoolers are a little bit. We have the unique ability to ebb and flow with the needs and space our family is in. In my best moments, I am organized but flexible with the attitude of "children will learn what they need to know if exposed to a variety of information in a way they can absorb". This is a very un-school mentality, and a general belief system of education that I subscribe to.

And then I freak out, sure my children will end up stupid with no future prospects and living in my basement playing Minecraft, dressing like My Little Pony and eating cheetos until the are 40.

This is not my best space. I make dumb choice in this space and drive my kids to do monotonous things they hate and pretty much act like a fun sponge, sucking all the joy from learning. This is usually triggered by hearing what my friends kids are doing in school, like math facts and spelling lists and required reading time.

I have started reading a new blog over the past couple of weeks, an American teacher who moved to Finland to live close to his wives family and now teaches over there. In case you haven't kept up, American schools don't test so well internationally, but Finland seems to hold its own pretty well and has for quite some time. So what do they have figured out that we seem to miss? Things like almost no testing until you FINISH HIGH SCHOOL. The don't teach children to read until age 7 unless they want to learn before. They have daily instruction in fine arts. Kids learn how to cook, budget, clean and other life skills.


Most mind blowing? Teachers are allowed to teach in a way that they see is best, teachers work together to make lesson plans and, overall, teachers WORK LESS than American teachers with better outcomes. They are given goals like "a child should find joy in solving the equation". Joy. In math. Its a thing, people, a thing they work to develop.

Finland has figured out that testing helps no one and there is more than one kind of smart. They figured out children learn best from a place of JOY not fear of a test, or shame of failing, but in JOY OF LEARNING.

I am not sure why this is blowing my mind, I mean, I already try to parent from that head space. I try to remember that children in secure relationship generally want to please and have a joyful, peace filled home. Parenting from a space of intimidation, shame, and fear undermines our wiring of needing to have real, vulnerable relationship. And parenting is just teaching a kid how to be an adult, so why would any other learning be different?

I have yet to have a child who really gets the reading thing really quickly and easily. My kids struggle at it, work at it, and get frustrated. Maybe I suck at teaching reading. This is a distinct possibility, as I am the common denominator. Anyway, I have been successfully making reading miserable for one of my kids. We both hated it. Great job, mom.

Today, I remembered joy. We started with sight word bingo, went on to a picture/word card challenge for candy, and then used the pocket chart for math and science. Know what? I heard my kids giggling, challenging each other and helping the other one succeed. We were silly. When it came time to work on cursive, the kids finished in record time and they had JOY.

Why do I find this so hard to remember? I enjoyed my kids, the house was peaceful, they had fun and they learned. So this week, I choose joy in learning, and I will try to keep my math facts freak outs to a minimum.

Monday, May 4, 2015


I watch him, king of his own back yard domain, stomping in his red rubber race car boots. White blond hair sticking up in all directions, shirt smeared with whatever happened to be on his hands. The chickens are smart enough to give him wide berth. But chickens have a short attention span and he is determined.

He sneaks, as quietly as his two year old body and sqeaky boots are able, and makes a grab for the chicken. Victoriously, he wrangles his feathered foe and carries it across the yard. Struggling under the weight and wriggling, he manages to hoist his conquest on to the hammock.

Back and forth he rocks the dismayed bird, singing at the top of his lungs. As the hammock slows, the chicken makes a break for it. Between fits of giggles, my boy scolds the flustered fowl and sets off to find a new "friend" to rock to sleep.

Inside my middelest daughter is snuggled in a chair, reading out loud, covered in blankets. The lumps under the fabric move and shift until two tiny orange kitten faces appear. She rubs the furry heads and tucks them in as she continues her book.

In the kitchen, the eldest child is cracking up. Amidst the laughing and quacking I see her teaching the duckling to drink from a cup. The duckling thrusts his head all the way down, pulls it out with a bill full of water and a loud quack and repeats. There is water all over the floor and the child.

My youngest daughter is rummaging in the fridge, looking for carrots for her and Rodeo to share. I have ceased trying to explain why it is gross to share a snack with a guinea pig and am just grateful the animal and the child are eating a healthy snack.

This is the chaos that causes my mother to roll her eyes and comment on the smell of kittens when she comes to my house. This is one of the many reasons my home will never be picture perfect and is often just above livable. This is why I do obscene amounts of laundry, clean poop off of the floor and vacuum up mud out of the carpet several times a week. My choice to live with critters (and children) make my life more complicated, I get that.

I also know that my children get some things that there friends whos homes are critter free will never understand. My kids know that it doesn't matter if you don't feel like feeding kittens, they are counting on you to be fed. My children know that life is fragile and death is part of the journey. My kids know that the fun of pets is balanced by the work it takes to keep them clean and healthy. Our animals teach responsibility, hard work, faithfulness and cooperation.

My life would be simpler without pets, no question. It would also be less rich. And, lets be honest here, a life with 4 small children is never going to be simple, so we might as well embrace to madness.

Tuesday, February 3, 2015

Good Mommy

Tuesday morning. At our house, this means swimming lessons. Specifically, it means corralling 3 little girls into swimming suits, braiding 3 heads of hair, grabbing 3 towels and enough snacks to keep a non-swimming 2 year old from coming unhinged while at the pool. We have this system down fairly well, and despite the fact it looks like we are packing for a week long trip across the country, we manage to make it to the pool every Tuesday.

This particular day, the boy was feeling very...two. Opinionated. Obstanent. Infuriating. Pick your "describes a two year old" word. He was that, big personality, little patience, lots of feelings, little control. Most of the time, this little blond dude can roll with the punches and is an enjoyable member of our little tribe. But today? Yeah, not so much.

We pull up to the pool, disembark from Doug (the Durango) and head for the pool.

"Mama, I need up"

In my hands I have my purse, my cup of coffee that I haven't had time to drink despite the fact it is closer to lunch than breakfast, a swimming bag and a partridge in a pear tree. Ok, so maybe not that last one, but I was feeling full on Sherpa already.

"Bud, my hands are all full, you are going to have to walk, sister can hold your hand"

Commence full-on melt down.

I send the girls on their way, seeing that this will not soon be over. They run in, as not to be late for their lessons as I get comfortable on a bench. Two year old is now laying, flailing and screaming on the sidewalk. I sip my coffee as nice little old ladies give me a look; part pity, part "get that kid under control".

I think how glad I am that it is fairly warm and dry outside, this would be really miserable if it was wet and cold and I am desperately trying to find the silver lining. Sip more coffee, try not to feel embarrassed as yet another group of people walk by my flailing toddler on the sidewalk.

I try and talk to him, despite my rule that I "never argue with a drunk" even when it is just a kid who is drunk on big emotion. I try and help him calm down, he isn't having it. I tell him I need to go in to help sisters and I would love for him to come. I walk in the door, he screams louder, but at least he is up and following me now.

Upon entry, I realize how good the acoustics of the rec center are. The eardrum busting screaming reverberates throughout the lobby, every eye is our direction. I grit my teeth and take a breath, determined not to let him make me come unglued. I get on his level, look him in the eye, and speak quietly. I let him know I have a snack for him as soon as we are watching sisters swim, but we can't have it until he is calm. There is no screaming at the pool, it is too distracting to the kids who are trying to swim.

A nice lady trys to talk to him, she brings him some sunglasses to try and distract him. He screams "NO!"   and covers his head. Oh boy, here I am, mom of the year, with the kid who yells at nice strangers. I thank her and apologize.

Boy is officially beyond the point he is able to get himself under control. I ask him if I may pick him up and rub his back and sing. He sobbingly nods his sweaty blond head, face blotchy, breathing ragged. I scoop him up and he calms down in my arms. I whisper in his ear, asking if he would like to try again. He nods and walks by my side into the locker room and pool. I avoid eye contact with all those who were witness to the nucular loosing-of-the-shit the my two year old just inflicted.

My blood pressure is high, my patience is thin, my coffee is cold and I feel like I am done parenting for the day and it isn't yet 10 a.m. In my head I remind myself that he is only two and has big feelings, just like his daddy. I refresh my memory, knowing that he owns his feelings, not me. It is my job as his mama to teaching him what to do, not what to feel. I watch my budding swimmers, as the little man munches an apple next to me, and I tell myself that his learning behaviors is just like his sisters learning the back stroke. She sinks as often as she floats, it just takes a lot of practice and doing it wrong before you get it right.

Swimming is over. The big girls change, the little guy makes comments about all the naked old ladies in the locker room (*sigh*) and we head back to the car. As we pass the front desk, the lady who works at the front and was witness to the meltdown calls out,

"Hey, you are a really good mommy. You know that, right?"

I smile and thank her, stating that it doesn't always feel that way. She repeats that I am doing a good job and my children are blessed to have me. I walk to the car with tears in my eyes, not feeling like a good mama but at least feeling like I will live to fight another day.

So to the dear front desk woman, I would like to say a heart felt "thank you" from a mommy who doesn't always feel like the end game is worth the daily grind. Your kindness, lack of judgement and words of encouragement mean the world to me. One day, when I witness a mama struggling at the front lines of motherhood, I hope to handle it with such love and grace.

Wednesday, January 28, 2015

Breakfast with toddlers

At 5:45 I am joined in bed by a small, blond man who insists on putting his cold toes on my warm back. I ignore him until 6:30 when his insistent "Is it wake up time yet?" for the 20 time becomes too much to bare. Stumble downstairs and start a pot of coffee.

J- "Mama, I'm hungry"
M- "Sure buddy, what kind of cereal do you want?"
J- "I don't want cereal, I want eggs"
M- "Ok, scrambled?"
J- "No, dipping ones. With toast"

10 minutes of food prep, with constant commentary and questioning if it was ready yet. Hand him one egg and a piece of toast.

J-"Its hot. Blow it, please?"

Spend 5 minutes of blowing on eggs and toast until toddler thinks it is safe

J- "Toast is icky. I just want the egg."

Sister walks in and asks for cheerios. I pour her a bowl, top with blueberries, she says "thanks" and proceeds to eat.

J- " I want cereal!"
M- " Buddy, you asked for eggs. Mama made you eggs. Eat those first, if you are still hungry you may have cereal"
J- "NOOOO! Eggs are icky. I want O's!"
Sister- "I will eat J's eggs and toast"
M- "Fine, if sister wants your eggs, I will make you cereal"

I get another bowl. Pour cereal and milk, hand it to the tiny dictator.

J- " Blueberries please"
M- "On top or next to?"
J- " On top!"

I walk away to pour a cup of coffee, heaven knows I need it. Turn around to see a blueberries in a puddle of milk on the counter.

M- "Soooo, what cha' do here?
J- " I don't like them in cereal. Please take them out"
M- "For real?!"

Spend 5 minutes scooping blueberries out of bowl of cereal. Two minutes later, Toddler leaves table.

M- "Hey, come eat your cereal!"
J- " No thank you, I'm not really hungry"

I add a shot of whiskey to my coffee. Don't judge me, bro. Spend next 10 minutes scrambling an egg, slicing sharp cheddar, toasting a bagel and cooking a sausage patty. Assemble a delish looking breakfast sandwich. Toddler returns from pestering sisters.

J- "What is that, mama?"
M- "A sandwich, for MY breakfast"
J- " Can I have a little bite, please?"
M- *sigh* " Sure, buddy"

Toddler proceeds to eat enough of my breakfast that I am still hungry, but not so much that I can justify making breakfast number 2. I pour more coffee, with a little more whisky. Count the hours until lunch.

Monday, January 26, 2015


I did it, the thing I said I would NEVER do. I have raised entitled children.

It started innocently enough. I like to eat, and therefore, place high value on cooking. Add that to being gluten free and I have spent many hours in my kitchen.

It is family ritual to sit together every evening and enjoy hot coco and cookies. The other night, I committed the unforgivable sin (at least in my entitled children s eyes) and I served gluten free OREOS. Not a home baked slice of caramel apple cake or a snickerdoodle fresh from the oven, but a boxed-neatly-in-a-row cookie from the store.

This is when I realized that my children have reached a dangerous level of home-baked cookie entitlement. We have several types of store bought treats including, but not limited to, candy, cookies, wafers and newtons. All of these are stored at kid-can-reach level, but they remain mostly untouched.

Alas, they are ruined, but I guess I am too.

It is hard to beat a fresh from the oven treat. This morning I noticed the last of the ginger cookies and cake were gone and knowing that evening cookie and coco time will be here soon, I got to baking. Todays treat?


I grew up eating these jems and they remain a favorite. Maybe because they hold so many of my favorite things like chocolate candies, peanut butter chips, oatmeal and peanut butter. They stay soft and chewy, are sturdy enough to pack in a lunch box, and the dough freezes well in case you don't want to make (and eat!) them all right away.

Today I made them with cashew butter and OMG!

Just in case you, too, have children who feel entitled to home baked yummy-ness, let me impart my favorite recipe. I do reduce the sugar to 2 cups total, and replace the peanut butter with cashew/sun/favorite nutbutter. I also leave out the corn syrup.

MONSTER COOKIES (from allrecipes)

Ingredients Edit and Save

Original recipe makes 6 - 7 dozenChange Servings


  1. Preheat oven to 350 degrees F (175 degrees C).
  2. In a very large bowl, beat the eggs.
  3. Add the remaining ingredients in order, mixing well.
  4. Use an ice cream scoop to put on ungreased cookie sheet. Bake for 12 to 15 minutes.