My Life is Weird: Whole30, Oatmeal and Paul Rudd

Why did I ever agree to do this?

What a stupid name anyway, Whole30. It should be called TinyFraction30 since I can only eat about ten percent of the food in the grocery store.

But no, stupid Whole30 has a grudge against sugar, dairy, grains and alcohol. It tells me those things cause inflammation, making me feel achy and sluggish. It tells me I must subsist for 30 days on vegetables, meat, eggs and fruit.

Damn you, Whole30, for promising me I’d feel downright euphoric after completing the program. And damn me for falling for it.

Please tell me, Whole30, what do you have against oatmeal? I am so sick of eating eggs for breakfast that I’m fantasizing about oatmeal. And quinoa. And beans. This is embarrassing.

And furthermore, why can’t I have one tiny cocktail on special occasions? Do you know how dull I was at a Halloween party last week? I just stared at people with my dead eyes speaking bluntly about everything from politics to middle school teachers. I wish I had the wherewithal to claim my behavior was part of my  Debbie Downer costume.

You’ve broken me, Whole30. I had a dream last night. Want to know what it was about? I could have fantasized about anything in the world; instead I dreamed I was staying at a fancy hotel that offered Paul Rudd as a “comfort companion” to join me for a cuddle on the couch to boost my flagging spirits. Literally cuddle. Comfy sweats, messy bun, glasses and Netflix with Paul Rudd.

I guarantee that if I had been allowed to eat oatmeal for breakfast, I would have had the stamina to dream about Jon Hamm. And we would not have been cuddling. Well, maybe  a little cuddling at the end while we hydrated and discussed Mad Men.

You want to know the worst part, Whole30? I feel fan-freaking-tastic. I’m a little more than halfway through the program and I’ve never felt better. My energy is high, my aches and pains nonexistent and I’m sleeping like preschooler after a long day at Disneyland. It’s totally working. I have to keep going. Damn you.

I appreciate you carefully mapping out all the emotions I would likely encounter while on the program. After reflecting upon my hastily penned, carb-deprived manifesto, I’m thinking I might have hit the cranky “kill all the things” phase you accurately describe. You estimated it would strike around day four or five; I lasted until day 16 before snapping.

I know it will pass. It has to pass. Please tell me it will pass.

Per your instructions, instead of ranting, I’ll take a deep breath, blend up a twee yet tasty turmeric almond milk latte, and focus on how good I’m feeling. I will not think about oatmeal. I will not think about Paul Rudd. I might think about Jon Hamm.

Sorry Kids, This Election is the Worst

Dear Kids,

The adults of this country owe you an apology. We need to take responsibility for this toxic election, starting at the top with the candidates and continuing down to the way the citizens of our country speak to one another. We failed you.

Specifically, we’re sorry…

  • For creating a culture so tied to our phones that political statements are reduced to tweets and memes. Our electorate seems to no longer be capable of diving into the issues and reading anything more detailed than a simple headline.
  • For living in a world where our political news comes mostly from social media. We surround ourselves with people who look like us and think like us, so we end up being spoonfed news that only confirms our beliefs. We’ve become unwilling and perhaps incapable of considering the opinions of the other side.
  • For introducing new words into your vocabulary, starting with the relatively innocuous “bigly” and “deplorables” but then quickly devolving to “rapists” and “pussy.” And don’t get me started on how awful it is to try and explain Weiner with a capital W.
  • For ruining Skittles and Tic Tacs. For exposing you to a discussion about small hands and everything that it implies. And for needing to explain interns and affairs and impeachment.

I hope that, despite all the noise, you’ve been able to realize this election poses some big issues that don’t have easy answers.

You know how at the dinner table we can discuss a topic like immigration or taxes or gun control and take you down a path that leads you to one opinion – but then we start asking questions that get you thinking and perhaps changing your stance? It’s hard, right? But it’s also interesting and important and what our country so badly needs to do right now.

You are thoughtful kids with great ideas, and we know your friends are too. At this point, I just hope the election has taught you how important it is to be informed, ask questions and truly listen. I also hope you’ve learned how ugly and ineffective name-calling, insults and gross generalizations are.

Like we always tell you after you’ve made a mistake: learn from this experience and don’t repeat it. The adults of this country have made a huge mistake this election. Let’s hope we learn from it and do better next time.

Love,
Mom

The Sleepy Apple

“No, no, no. God no,” she screamed, as if I’m an ax murder slowly walking towards her while menacingly sharpening my blade.

At first glance, it could be a scene straight out of a cheesy slasher film, complete with a beautiful starlet in distress and a deranged knife-wielding killer.

Except in this case, the distressed starlet is my daughter and I’m the psycho causing terror by slowly walking towards her wielding…wait for it…

…a box of Cheerios.

Welcome to our world. A world in which a mother and daughter, neither of whom are morning people, try to wake up while it’s still dark outside and function at a level high enough to get the daughter out the door in time to catch the bus to middle school. We’d make an entertaining reality show; the Kardashians got nothing on two groggy Davis ladies.

I envy those preternaturally cheery types who greet the day like a Disney princess. Unfortunately, I’m the opposite, starting every morning by cursing the alarm and crawling to the coffee maker. Those who love me know to hold all nonessential communication until the second cup has hit my bloodstream.

Sadly, since the sleepy apple doesn’t fall far from the sleepy tree, our mornings are rough – especially when the sleepy apple decides to go on a cereal boycott.

With only three minutes to ingest something reasonably breakfast-y before running out the door, my daughter requested I quickly whip up a batch of French toast. And since I’m 1) not a morning person and 2) sometimes a little bit of a bitch, I laughed and said, “As if.”

Not my strongest parenting move.

The argument quickly ricocheted from the merits of Cheerios to the classification of yogurt as a breakfast food. For the record, yogurt is unequivocally a breakfast food. Duh.

She stomped out of the house and I still don’t know what she ate for breakfast. I think she tucked a yogurt into her backpack. Maybe she ate it for brunch just to prove me wrong.

After my third cup of coffee finally did its job and cleared the mental cobwebs, I realized how funny this morning’s fight was and hope the sleepy apple agrees when she comes home from school today. I also decided to mix up a batch of overnight waffles as a peace offering and a way to ensure that tomorrow morning goes a little more smoothly.

These are my family’s favorite waffles: crunchy on the outside, tender on the inside and simply delicious. Making them couldn’t be easier – mix 90% of the ingredients together the night before and let the yeast do the work while you snooze. Then in the morning, curse your alarm clock, crawl to the coffee maker, fire up the waffle iron and enjoy an awesome breakfast, not a Cheerio or yogurt container in sight.

The internet is loaded with recipes for yeasted waffles, I like this one by Emma Christiansen over at thekitchn.com It makes a lot of waffles – freeze the leftovers and reheat them in the toaster for an easy breakfast that’s ready even before the first cup of coffee kicks in.

Overnight Yeasted Waffles

Stir 1 tablespoon active dry yeast into 1 cup of warm water, let stand for a few minutes until the yeast has dissolved. In a large bowl (like, really large because the batter is going to at least double in size) combine 2 sticks of unsalted butter (melted and cooled a little), 4 cups of milk (whole or low fat is fine) 2 teaspoons of salt and ¼ cup of sugar. Next add the yeast mixture and 6 cups of flour. Stir just enough to combine. Cover with plastic wrap and let the batter sit on the counter to rise overnight. If you’re concerned about milk sitting out overnight, you can let the batter rise in the refrigerator instead, but come on, live a little.

The next morning, whisk 4 eggs and 1 teaspoon of baking soda into the batter.

After that, simply fire up the waffle iron and get to work.

This recipe makes about 16 Belgian-style waffles.

An Open Letter To My Recent Dance Partners

Dear 7th grade boys who had to dance with me at cotillion last week,

I had no idea that, for the first time in cotillion history, there would be a shortage of girls at the dance.

I tried valiantly to spare you the trauma of dancing with me, cheerfully recruiting other chaperones to be stand ins for the absent 13-year-old girls. But then the lady with the microphone declared an “all hands on deck” dancing emergency. I had no choice but to obey — she scared me.

I know the other moms were wearing dresses and heels, but since I thought I’d be sitting behind the registration table all night, I went with sensible shoes, black pants and a jacket. If you were into fashion, you might have recognized that it was a seriously kickass Rag and Bone jacket that I scored at the Nordstrom anniversary sale, but I’m sure you just felt like you were box stepping with Hillary Clinton. Sorry about that.

I’m also sorry for the sweaty palms (mine) and the stepped on toes (yours). I never took cotillion in middle school and I’ve had the same dance partner for 24 years. Plus, he’s a lot taller than you are.

I also want to take this opportunity to ask one kid in particular to forgive me for shouting, “nailed it!” and offering a high five after we successfully navigated a tricky move. I thought it would be funny and break the tension. Your bright red face let me know I misjudged the moment.

Despite the weirdness, all of you were good-natured and so darn cute. I’ve never seen a more earnest one-two-cha-cha-cha in my life.

You survived. And not only did you survive, I hope you learned something from our missteps: everyone is still carrying around a small part of their 13-year-old selves with them, no matter their age.

During your teenage years, you begin to realize that your parents don’t know everything. I’d like to add to that idea. Your parents also probably still have an insecurity or two as well as a desire to feel accepted and liked, just like when they were in 7th grade.

These feelings are universal. Adults might be better at hiding them behind the emotional armor that builds up after many years, but our soft middles are still there, both literally and metaphorically.

I’m not trying to bum you out. A lot of it gets easier as you get older. Eventually you find a tribe of friends who love you for exactly who you are. There’s less posturing, more acceptance. You find your rhythm and begin to lead confidently.

The journey, however, is a long one. You’ll inevitably face embarrassing moments but you’ll survive, and maybe even laugh about them someday. Just remember to go easy on yourself and everyone else you meet along the way, because we’re all doing this awkward waltz together.

Thanks for the dance,
~Mrs D

Ho Ho Huh?

IMG_8346So Starbucks has found itself in the middle of a brouhaha (more like a brew-ha-ha, amirite?) over its austere red ombre cups for the holidays. Internet outrage abounds. Not only are some people offended by the lack of vaguely Christmas-y doodles on the new cups, but other people are offended by the fact that people are offended.

And even though I think this news has run its course, Donald Trump — arbiter of all that is rational and compassionate – is weighing in, so I can’t let it go. Trump suggested boycotting Starbucks. Good luck with that. He also promised that if elected, everyone will be saying “Merry Christmas” again. Which begs the question that I shout at the TV to Trump and all other politicians again and again: how exactly are you going to do that?

Ok, here’s the thing. If today is one of the 364 days of the year that is not your birthday, I won’t walk up to you and say happy birthday. Similarly, if you don’t celebrate Christmas, I won’t wish you a Merry Christmas. If I don’t know you well enough to have insight as to what you celebrate in December but want to wish you well nonetheless, I’m going with happy holidays. That just seems to make sense, right?

Starbucks chose a simple red cup to acknowledge the upcoming holidays. This should not impact anyone’s holidays. I think the bigger question needs to be why are corporations so deeply involved in our families’ celebrations in the first place?

Just as I don’t need a pumpkin spice latte to let me know it’s fall, I don’t need a decorated cup to let me know the holidays are coming. Nor do I need Lexus suggesting that a luxury sedan wrapped in a big red bow is a reasonable gift this time of year. Instead of worrying about whether or not companies use the word “Christmas,” why don’t we push back against their efforts to whip us all into a gift buying frenzy in the first place?

We consistently say the holidays aren’t about the gifts, they’re about people – family, friends and those in need. Therefore, the most important thing to be spending this season is time. Time with people we love. Time helping others. Time cultivating gratitude. This isn’t news. We all know this. I’ve even written about it before (although in a much more profane way) in this post.

But it takes blinders, earplugs and an iron will not to succumb to the message in the media. I’m glad Starbucks’ cupgate happened in early November so I have a head start in thinking about what’s truly important this season and how my family will celebrate. I simply want time with them. Maybe even at a Starbucks, sipping hot chocolate out of a plain red cup.

Happy holidays, may you spend wisely this year.

I’m an ASH

My name is Jennifer and I’m an ASH: awkward social hugger.

I’m guessing a few of you out there are ASHes too. We’re pretty good at spotting each other in a crowd, often giving poorly timed high fives and age-inappropriate fist bumps; our own little band of outsiders avoiding hugs in an overly touchy world.

Don’t get me wrong. I love hugs. But you need to fall into one of two general categories before I give up the goods. Either 1) I gave birth to you, am married to you or we’re somehow related, or 2) you’re a close friend who is celebrating something wonderful, mourning something awful or is departing somewhere far-flung.

In most other instances, I’m pretty sure “hi” or “bye” coupled with a casual wave will suffice. And yet, people insist on squeezing me, uncomfortably mushing our squishy parts together and stepping on my toes. I can’t tell you how many enthusiastic folks I’ve accidentally punched in the stomach by offering a handshake at the exact moment they’re coming in for a bear hug. Total ASH move.

As I see it, I have two choices. I can continue avoiding hugs by using barely plausible excuses such as, “better keep your distance, I think I’m coming down with something,” or I can learn to embrace the embrace.

The best way out is always through, says sage Robert Frost. So this month, instead of hanging back and debating if I’m in a situation that warrants a hug, I’m just going for it. Every single time. Like I’m notorious hugger Richard Simmons working the crowd at a Sweatin’ to the Oldies convention. Side note: will someone please buy me this for Christmas?

But I’m only devoting the month of November to operation ASH-no-more. We’ll see how it goes and then re-evaluate. That gives you 26 days to come at me, arms outstretched. I might cringe, but I’ll be ready for you.

New Favorite Song

He flopped into the car, exhausted and sweaty from a late-night basketball practice. It was the last stretch of my inane day where I seemed to do nothing but chauffeur kids, run errands and burn almost a half tank of gas in the process. Both of us too tired to talk, I flipped through stations on the radio.

The opening riff of a song caught our attention.

“This is my new favorite song,” I confessed, turning it up.

“Me too!”

I smiled and glanced over at him, watching his face as the realization hit: mom and I like the same song. He was trying to figure out if his musical taste was lame or if mine was cool – the only two possible explanations for this newly discovered commonality in our Venn diagram.

Undaunted, I started to sing along, catching only one out of every three words:

Mmm and lied, mmm mmm so bad
La la la vow, never get mad

He laughed, knowing he could do better. Too tired to be self-conscious and protected by 8pm darkness where no one could see in the car windows, he joined in.

I nudged the volume up a bit and added steering wheel drums. He cringed – nothing is more embarrassing than my steering wheel drums — but he kept singing.

There comes a time, in a short life
Turn it around, get a rewrite

The song ended, as did our spontaneous moment of musical bonding.

Anyone who hangs out with me knows that I spend a lot of time grumbling about the pace of life with big kids. They’re old enough to have talents and interests and a desire to pursue them. But they’re not old enough to drive themselves to the never-ending practices and games that take place in far-flung locations at all hours of the day.

It’s insane. But just when I’m ready to crack, life offers a crystalized moment of raw love: a connection over a song while driving home from practice; a good talk after a disappointing loss; a sweaty bear hug after a game-winning shot. It’s all there, tucked into the pockets of quiet within this loud, busy life we’ve created.

There comes a time, in a short life
Turn it around, get a rewrite

 Message received.

I know I’m lucky beyond words. I know this time is short and that in a few years they’ll be independent and I’ll miss all those miles on roads to kids’ activities. I’ve always known these things but sometimes it helps to be reminded. Recharged and refocused, I’m changing my tune… but keeping the steering wheel drum solo.