Monday, June 24, 2013

Relationship Advice: Not Just for Girls Any More!

I've been seeing a lot of posts, mostly from religious-based bloggers about how to be a good wife.  While I think these suggestions are excellent and you can never go wrong being a supportive spouse, I find the lack of "How to be a Good Husband" posts disturbing.  It smacks of sexism to me.  Admittedly, I'm a pretty radical feminist, and my opinions are colored by my own religious experiences, which were most definitely sexist and marginalizing toward women.  So this kind of stuff tends to stick in my craw a little.  Still, I think a little balance is required here.  So the following is a list of ways to be a supportive PARTNER (not all committed relationships are marriages).  These are aimed at both genders.

1.  Be honest.  If something is bothering you, speak up.  Don't assign blame, but approach the problem with solving it in mind.  "I'm having trouble understanding why you have been less affectionate lately.  I have some suggestions for ways to help us both get what we need."

2.  Don't expect more of your partner than you expect of yourself.  It's not his job to provide ALL the romance.  It's not her job to give ALL the back rubs.  Give as much as you get.  If you want more, give more and then ask for what you need.

3.  Don't expect LESS of your partner than you expect of yourself.  If they're abusive, mean, hurtful or irresponsible that is not your fault and it is not your job to pick up their slack or absorb their abuse.  Seek professional help for these problems or leave, because it's not healthy for anyone to be in an abusive relationship.

4.  Offer praise regularly.  Everyone needs a shot in the arm sometimes.  Some people need to be complimented on their looks, some need to be told they're awesome parents, some need appreciation showed for their hard work.  Find out what makes your partner glow inside and try to keep them glowing.

5.  Offer only constructive criticism.  "This tastes terrible!" is not constructive.  It's not even nice.  "Next time it could use a little more salt," is much better.  If you don't know what could make the problem better, see #1... go in with finding a solution in mind.  "I don't know what made it taste badly to me, show me the recipe and maybe I can critique it for you."

6.  Find common ground.  Everybody is different.  You won't share all the same interests, you won't like all the same music, you won't enjoy all the same shows.  But find something that you both enjoy and do it together regularly.  If you can't think of anything you both like, try something new!

7.  Put your focus forward.  Its nice to reflect on all the fun you had when you were first in love, but that time is past.  Now is the time to create new memories, not try to live in the old ones.  There is so much to be gained from living in the present.  The truth is you may never feel like teenagers in love again, and that's okay.  Because now you get to feel like 20,30,40,50,60 somethings in love.  Create happiness for today instead of trying to REcreate happiness from yesterday.

Bottom line, just try to be a decent person to live with.  Male or female, in a relationship with a man or a woman, married or otherwise. 

What makes me qualified to offer this advice?  A decade-long relationship with a single person with nary a breakup.  And that relationship began when I was 15.  And I've read a bunch of relationship books.  And I've had some tough times and huge disagreements in my marriage.  And I've changed a lot since we got together.  So yeah.  Not a relationship counselor, but I've got some experience under my belt.

Sunday, May 19, 2013

Just be Honest, Yo.

I tell my kids the truth.  Pretty much universally.  If they ask me a question, I answer it to the best of my ability and their understanding.  I don't shelter them from the hard discussions.  I've been asked where babies come from, what makes boys and girls different, what does dead mean, and after the answer to that question, when will you die, mommy?  What is gravity?  What does douchecanoe mean?  Yeah, I have a potty mouth.  How do birds fly?  And about a million other questions, to some of which I had to respond "I don't even know how to go about Googling that, honey."

The questions are hard, and honesty is hard too.  Sometimes I have to fight with myself.  I want to shelter them from the truth sometimes, but when I have forced an honest answer between my lips I have been met with a surprising amount of acceptance.  "Where is your dad, mom?"  "He died when I was 15."  "Oh, do you miss him?"  "Yes, sometimes I do miss him."  "Oh.  What's for dinner?"

This question-asking time in a child's life is a prime opportunity to avoid stigma and build trust.  Instead of making things too scary or grown up to talk about you can make them normal.  Instead of being afraid or ashamed my kids remain curious and they trust me to always be honest with them.  If their mother, who they know would protect them from anything, is willing to tell them the truth about this, it must not be bad or scary.  If she will answer me when I ask what sex is, she will answer me when I ask if she thinks my significant other is a good pick.

I guess the point of this ramble is that I don't understand the need to lie to children.  The Stork, "Goldie the Goldfish is going to a fish amusement park in the potty" etc.  I think we do a disservice to our kids by making these topics taboo.  I'm glad my parents worked hard to answer my questions truthfully.  Just be honest, yo. 

Monday, April 22, 2013

I Play the Garbage Can: My Musings About One Member of Slipknot

This subject has been eating at me.  I've heard Slipknot's music.  In case you haven't, it's basically aggressive, atonic noise with so much going on you can't really tell up from down.  Some people dig it.  I don't.

Recently my husband was watching a YouTube video of them playing live.  First of all, the stage is completely full of dudes.  There are, like, 15 band members and most of them are just screaming and jumping around in their jumpsuits and creepy leather masks.  Then I catch a glimpse of this one dude wailing on a trash can.  He's totally going to town on it.  There's no mic anywhere nearby, he's just wailing on a trash can because he's in Slipknot and it doesn't matter anyway, since basically it is a cacophony with a guy screaming laid over the top.

That split second image got me thinking.  How did this artist's career begin?  What was it like being him, trying to pick up chicks and be relevant in a band with 15 members?

Trashcan guy (TCG):  "I'm totally in a band, you know."
Chick: "Oh yeah?  Cool, what do you play?"

At this point, TCG can go one of two ways.  He can either own his position in the band and pretend like it's an off-the-wall artistic expression, like he's *really* a drummer, but chooses to play the trash can because it's raw and uncivilized and it totally makes the sound of the band.  Or he can lie until his pants catch fire.  I suspect that the latter option would get him more girls.

TCG: "I'm the drummer."

Which leads to another problem for our young man.  Er... groupies don't like drummers.  They're all after the singer, the lead guitarist is a backup and if neither of them are available they will shag the bassist.  Sometimes.  But drummers are chopped liver.

Chick:  "Oh yeah, that's cool.  Hey, I have to run and meet my friend, nice talking to you!"

I suspect that TCG has had a very hard life.  And I suspect that no one actually records him playing the trashcan, they just tell him he has an important job and sit him in the corner of the recording studio without a mic.  "Nah, man, the sound carries, we don't want it to overwhelm the vocals."  And then their drummer just wails on his set without listening to how everyone else is playing.  But now he's associated with one of the foremost bands in terrormetal or whatever they call their genre and I think his battle is pretty much over.

Sometimes I think perhaps I'm missing some crucial element of the music here that makes it all make sense instead of seeming like a crazed side show full of nonsense.  But then I see this picture and I feel certain of my judgements.

Photo from Tumblr.  Also... WTF?

Wednesday, March 20, 2013

Ostara Recipe Confusion

Some of you will know this already, but modern earth-centered paganism is just that.  Earth centered.  Many pagans are very eco-conscious, very friendly to the causes of combating climate change, organic food and reducing carbon footprints. 

Ostara falls each year on the spring equinox (which is March 20-22 in the northern hemisphere).  It is a celebration of the return of longer days, greener fields and the fertility of animals (thus the egg and rabbit motifs). 

With the eco-conscious nature of paganism and the season in mind I was really disappointed by the results of my Google search for Ostara recipes.  This time of year here in the northern hemisphere the foods in season are pretty slim pickin'.  Veggies are limited to sprouts and leafy varieties.  Early lettuces, asparagus, spinach.  Fruits are even more limited.  Strawberries may barely be turning red if you started them early and rhubarb, which is not really a fruit but can be used as one, may be available.  Well-kept apples, onions, garlic and winter squash may still be available (though anything you buy in the store is probably not well kept from last fall but flown in from warmer climes), but for the most part, that's it.  The foods that ARE plentiful are ones that are available year round to agricultural people.  Meat, eggs (if chickens have resumed laying enough to keep you in eggs, or if you have cold-hardy varieties of chickens which lay through the winter) and milk. 

So then why, if pagans are trying to be tuned into the earth and watch their footprint's size, are all the recipes I'm finding calling for berries, green beans, cucumbers, zucchini, and all manner of other high-summer plant foods?

I posit that we have lost our way a little bit here.  Even we who wish with all our hearts to steward for our Mother Earth have lost sight of what She offers us in the way of food this time of year.  We have been blinded by the ever-bounty of the grocery store and have forgotten where our food is coming from.  If you're eating green beans in March they have traveled a long way to make it to your plate, leaving a trail of fossil-fuel exhaust the whole way.

I'm not saying at all that having a bountiful choice of food year-round is a bad thing, but at least on our holy days, should we not keep our region's seasonal choices in mind?  Even if you can't get locally grown food this time of year, shouldn't we try to at least eat as in-season as possible?

In the spirit of honoring Earth's stately pace through the cosmos, I offer these in-season Ostara recipes.

Simple Green Salad

1 head early lettuce variety (butter lettuce, baby lettuces of all kinds)
1 bunch spinach/baby spinach
1/2 onion, sliced, rings separated

Chop or tear lettuce and spinach to bite-sized pieces and toss with onion rings.  Top with a simple vinegrette dressing of 2 parts your favorite vinegar to 1 part extra virgin olive oil plus minced garlic, salt and cracked pepper to taste.

Apple and Dried Cranberry Chicken Salad

1lb chicken parts (I usually use breasts), cooked and chopped into small pieces
1/2 small onion, chopped
1 small apple, chopped (leave the skin on, it's super good for you!)
1/3 cup mayo
2 tsp poultry seasoning
1/2 c. dried cranberries

Combine all ingredients and serve on freshly baked bread

Deviled Eggs

6 eggs, boiled
2-3 T. mayo
1 t. mustard (yellow gives a nice zip but you can use any variety.  Whole grain is especially nice)
salt and pepper to taste
Paprika, for sprinkling

Slice eggs in half lengthwise and remove the yolk (which, by the way, is a single cell.  There, you learned something).  Combine yolks with mayo, mustard, salt and pepper.  Place into a plastic baggie with a hole cut in the corner and pipe back into the egg whites.  Sprinkle with paprika.

Garlic and Sage Rubbed Pork Chops with Onion and Apple Slaw

3 cloves garlic, minced
2 tsp salt
1/2 tsp pepper
3 tsp rubbed sage
2 cooking apples, sliced (since you're cooking them it is okay to peel these apples)
2 onions, halved and sliced
4 pork chops (whatever kind strikes your fancy)
Splash of apple cider or white vinegar

Combine first 4 ingredients in a small bowl.  Add 1/3 of this mixture to the apples and onions, rub the rest on the pork chops.  Brown pork chops in large, heavy skillet, add onions and apples, cover and cook until onions and apples are tender and the chops are just a tiny bit pink in the middle.  Splash a little vinegar on to liven up the flavors.

Vanilla Custard

here for the recipe, I didn't concoct this myself at all and will not take credit for this recipe.  I don't even suggest any variations (because it is freaking amazing) except to top it with fresh strawberries, which are closer to being in season than blueberries.

This is our menu for today.  Enjoy the season, everyone, and happy Ostara!

Tuesday, March 19, 2013

I'm not Ashamed to be a Grammar Nazi

Lately a lot of my friends on Facebook have been sharing cool little e-cards.  They're sometimes hilarious, sometimes hilariously true, and sometimes, once in a while, obviously not proof-read.  Anyone can make one and sometimes they go viral. "I can't share this, but it's so awesome!" I think to myself.  The obvious grammar, spelling or logic error makes it completely useless to me.  I've forever been correcting friends' and family's grammar, ever since I was little.  It has alienated a few people, made me unlikeable to some, and irritated just about everyone.  Its part of who I am, though.  Like the friend who has to wash her hands 20 times a day or the cousin with a really irritating laugh with a hair trigger, you pretty much learn to live with it or stop hanging out with me. 

Aside from the term "grammar Nazi" (because, ya know, correcting someones grammar is EXACTLY THE SAME as participating in genocide), I'm cool with being one.  I'm not perfect.  I make mistakes when I'm tired or distracted.  I use the word "like" too much, I sometimes type in all-caps for emphasis.  Sometimes I even put periods after sentence fragments (Also. For. Emphasis.).  I am actually capable of letting similar mistakes go when I find them.  Obvious typos, sentences ending in prepositions, I can handle not correcting these things, they've worked their way into common use with the Information Age (also, you're welcome for not using the word "vernacular" in this sentence).  Improper use of "your/you're" and "their/there/they're" drive me batty, though.  Similarly, correcting these things drives others batty, which leaves us at an impasse.  Either I correct the grammar mistakes I see/hear and feel better or I don't and let others continue to feel alright.

To all those I correct,  I'm really not trying to be a bitch.  When I say something like, "Actually, this sentence requires the use of the word 'their' instead of 'there'," or, "Its spelled a-l-g-o-r-i-t-h-m," I'm not calling you out.  I'm not trying to make you look or feel stupid.  Even though these things come easily to me I understand that everyone has talents in different areas.  Maybe you're a terrible speller, but algebra is a breeze for you.  Maybe you can't tell where an comma goes, but you can run a marathon.  Perhaps you are one of those people who capitalize random letters, but you're a fantastic cook. 

My whole point here is that it's okay for you to embrace your strengths and it's okay for me to embrace mine.  If you're a fantastic musician, mechanic or carpenter that's really awesome!  I'm a good reader, a good speller and halfway decent with English grammar.  That's my thing.  And I'm okay with being good at it, and I'm okay with having a compulsion to correct mistakes.

I will leave you with two thoughts.  The first is that I am always ready to learn something new.  Feel free to correct me when I'm wrong.  Really.  <--- Including that sentence fragment right there.  And the second thought is just a little bit of snark because, well, I wouldn't be me if I didn't include some.

Thursday, March 7, 2013

A Cloth Diaper Manifesto

I get questions about cloth diapers a lot.  I cloth diapered both of my kids and there is a growing interest in using cloth diapers because of the economic and environmental benefits.  Not to mention they are freaking cute. 

But what kind of diaper makes the most sense for your style, budget and environmental concerns?  Let's explore that!

Let's start with some cloth diaper lingo, including all the types of diapers available.

AIO (all in one): And all-inclusive diaper.  No parts to disassemble, no stuffing.  These are the most similar to disposable diapers, just wrap it around the baby and go.  They include an absorbent layer and a layer of water proof material (usually PUL) to keep the diaper from leaking.  These are also usually the most expensive option, and they can be hard to clean, since they don't come apart.  But they're great for babysitters and others who have no experience with cloth diapers.  Footprint wise, these probably cost a little more as well, since the PUL layer is basically super thin plastic.  If you use a diaper and a cover separately you can re-use the cover for several diaper changes, thus reducing the total amount of PUL in your diaper collection (also called a stash).
A Bumgenius! AIO diaper

AI2 (all in two):  These are similar to AIOs but they usually have an insert that snaps into the shell (outer, waterproof part) or one that slips into a pocket in the shell.  These are usually a little cheaper than AIOs and clean a little easier.  If you get the kind of AI2 diaper that has an insert that snaps into the shell sometimes you can re-use the shell and just snap in a new insert.  If baby poops, though, it usually gets on the shell and then you have to change the whole thing.  So you will save a little bit on the PUL/plastic footprint part.

This is a Flip AI2 diaper

Fitted Diapers:  These diapers look similar to AIOs and AI2s, but they require the use of a separate waterproof barrier if you want to keep baby's clothes (and your furniture... and your own clothes) dry.  It seems more expensive if you use one fitted diaper and one cover for each diaper change, but overall this option is more economical, usually, than AIOs or AI2s, since you can re-use the cover over and over again until it starts to smell or gets poop on a part that doesn't wipe clean easily (like the waistband).  Because many fitted diapers AND covers hug the baby around the legs and waist, I found that this is the best leak protection.  They are easy to clean, too, and it's nice to be able to let a baby's bottom breathe sometimes.  You can use these without a cover for days when you're at home and can change diapers frequently, and this can help heal or prevent diaper rash.


A prefold diaper being used with a Snappy instead of pins
Prefolds:  Many cloth diapering families consider these the "workhorse" diaper.  They are cheap, easy to clean, and as with fitted diapers you can re-use the covers many times with them.  A lot of parents are initially opposed to prefolds because they look old-fashioned and don't come in pretty colors or prints like the other diapers do.  I say that they are a great, easy-to-use, economical, environmentally friendly option.  You can fold them in thirds and put them right inside a cover, wrap them around the baby by folding in thirds except for "wings" at the top, which are used to pin the diaper on the baby, or use them as an insert for your AI2s.  They come in both natural and synthetic fibers, and you can even purchase organic prefolds, an option that I have not found in other diaper types.  These do tend to wear out quicker than other diaper types, so be aware that you will probably have to replace some of the larger sizes, since kids wear them for longer than the newborn and small sizes.

Prefolds come in different sizes.  These are the sizes from

Flats:  As the name suggests, these diapers are not "prefolded" but instead are large flat sheets which must be folded to fit the baby.  I have never known a family who used these, and they are not highly available in the US.  They ARE, however, super easy to make and clean.  You can find patterns online, just type "flat diaper pattern" into your preferred search engine.

Doublers:  These are just strips of fabric layers that you can add to your diaper to increase absorbency.  Super handy for heavy wetters or for overnight and nap time.  They come in colors or plain, synthetic or natural fibers.  I LOVED my hemp doublers.  They were so soft and so absorbent.  You can use them with any type of diaper.  On the outside of the diaper, between the diaper and the cover, or inside the pocket of an AI2 or just laid inside an AIO diaper.

Covers:  I've mentioned these in some of the above sections, but they are worth their own definition, I think.  These are just waterproof barriers between diapers and the rest of the world.  They come in all colors and prints and sizes and styles.  If you want to stick with all natural fibers you can use wool soakers, which are little wool shorts that go over diapers.  They're not quite as waterproof as PUL covers, but everyone I've known who used wool never went back to PUL covers.  

Other things you may want to consider in purchasing your diapers are:

Synthetic fibers or natural?  Most diapers made with natural fibers are cotton or hemp.  Hemp is heavier but more absorbent than cotton.  Cotton comes in bleached and unbleached, organic or not, and the benefit of using natural fibers is that you avoid the "polyester stink".  Polyester, after repeated use, can start to smell of ammonia, mildew or just "funky".  A vinegar soak usually cures this problem, or "stripping" the diapers by washing them with a small amount of dish soap or Calgon laundry soap.  Cotton and hemp don't do this to the same extent (but will still need to be stripped from time to time to rinse away oils that build up in the fibers, reducing absorbency).  Synthetic fibers are usually less expensive, though, and are usually just as absorbent.  They can also feel much softer than natural fibers.

How often do I want to do diaper laundry?  New babies go through a lot of diapers... up to 10 a day.  If you want to avoid having to do diaper laundry every day, every other day, etc, you need to plan accordingly.  I recommend a starting stash of about 30 diapers.  Especially when you're a new mom and need to be resting with your baby, you don't need to be worrying about diaper laundry all the time.  30 diapers allows you to do diaper laundry every second or third day and won't be so expensive as to deter you from the purchase of cloth.

Sticker shock!  I can buy a whole pack of diapers for the cost of ONE of these!  Yup.  There are some really expensive options out there.  They're nice, I'm not gonna lie.  They are the Caddies of the diaper realm.  Cloth diapering is a long-term investment.  The cost of buying disposable diapers and wipes over an average of 2 1/2 years (though many kids potty learn later than that age) is about $2000.  The cost of even the most expensive cloth diapers and wipes from birth to potty learning is about $1500, and the cheaper options run about $500, plus maybe another $200 in detergent and water to wash them.  And don't worry, you don't have to buy them all at once.  You can start out with the smaller sizes, see how you like them and then size up, spending as little as $100 for each size.  And you can be buying one or two here and there until your baby grows into the new size. 

Crash course in cloth diaper care: When you get a peed in diaper, just toss it in your diaper pail (for which you can use a cheap trash can lined with a cloth diaper pail liner).  For newborn, breastfed poop you don't even really need to rinse the diaper, although rinsing does help prevent stains.  You can buy a diaper sprayer, which hooks up to your toilet or you can dunk them.  Once baby is eating anything other than breast milk their poop changes and will need to be rinsed.  I always just scraped off what I could and washed out the rest, but rinsing really is recommended.  Eventually the poo will just come right off the diaper and they won't need to be rinsed at all, since poop evolves as babies age and becomes more "formed" and less "loose".  On laundry day, empty your stash into your washer, add a detergent that doesn't have enzymes, dyes or fragrances.  Some people use detergents like Tide and have no problems, other people experience build up and babies with diaper rash or even chemical burns when those detergents are used so go with one of the ones recommended here.  Cloth diapers do very well when they are line dried.  They last longer and the sun helps kill off any germs.  If you can't line dry, there are racks you can use indoors to air dry.  I always dried mine in the dryer and it was fine, though.

Phew!  That's a lot of information to take in.  Feel free to absorb it piecemeal.  And happy diapering!

Saturday, March 2, 2013

Only Boring People are Ever Bored

How is it even possible, in this world of smart phones and free wifi and and gossip magazines thousands upon thousands of books you get to read for free at the library (and Internet access there too!) and space exploration and the thousand thousand other things that are fascinating and scintillating and titillating, is it even remotely possible for a person to ever, even for a moment, succumb to boredom?

I drove my teachers crazy in middle school.  It's all I had going for me at the time, being the obnoxious class clown with a captive audience (all of whom, I'm sure, were thoroughly sick of my jokes).  One teacher had given me detention so many times that instead of setting a time limit on it he told me "Stare at this wall until you get bored."  He checked in with me every so often.  "Are you bored yet?"  My answer?  "No."  He had been one of the first to say "Only boring people are bored," in my life and if there is one thing I was not it was boring.  In part, I was just being contrary and defiant.  Like hell I would admit to being bored, even if I had been.  But I was being truthful too.  I was writing poems in my head, classifying the color of the wall, finding patterns in the textured paint, reflecting on an emotional section of a book I was reading, thinking about all the things going on in my life, wondering what my friends and family were doing, singing myself my favorite songs.  It went on for at least 45 minutes.  Every 5 minutes he'd ask "Are you bored yet?" and I would answer "No, I think this is cerulean, this color.  Do you know the first verse of 'Californication'?"  He eventually admitted to himself, and, indirectly, to me that he was tired of being there and thought he had made his point and we left for the day, the last ones to leave the school.

And I had been staring at a boring, plain, medium blue wall in silence as punishment for squeezing in one too many puns at my teacher's expense.

What the hell excuse do any of us have for lamenting about our lack of occupied status?  If you're bored go to Wikipedia and hit "Random Article."  Learn something.  Find a subject you're interested in.  Read a book, go for a walk, count shooting stars, ponder existence or mortality or the meaning of life.  Question your religion.  Recommit yourself to your beliefs.  Wonder what it would be like to be someone very different.

Here's an idea.  Every time you're tempted to whine "I'm so bored!" donate $10 to the local library, education fund or to yourself, to buy a book.  And quit being so boring!
I found this picture on the "I fucking love science" Facebook page and the above picture at


Friday, February 15, 2013

Two of Texans' Favorite Things in One Slow Cooker (With Vegetarian and Vegan Options... Which is Decidedly Not Texan)

Chili is delicious all by itself.  I make it a lot because it's cheap, nutritious, can cook all day long in the crock pot, and it tastes amazing.  It's variable: you can make it meatless, use meat substitutes like tofu, use all fresh ingredients, use all canned ingredients... it's the ultimate busy mom food.

And beer.  When you get a really good beer, one that is fresh and fizzy with just the right bitter/sweet balance and body, there is very little that is as satisfying. 

And Texans love to eat red meat and beer together any chance they get.  So I skipped a step and put them in the same pot.  And it was awesome.

The smell all by itself is intoxicating (haha! But seriously, the chili won't get you drunk and it really is awesome).

So I decided to share this delicious recipe with you folks, along with my notes about ingredients :)


Beer Chili Recipe
1 lb beans (I used red kidney beans) or 4 cans of canned beans
1 bottle of your favorite beer
5 Roma tomatoes, chopped (or 3 large beefsteak tomatoes or 2 cans of diced tomatoes)
1 green bell pepper, chopped
1 onion, chopped
1 jalapeno pepper, chopped
3 Tb (or to taste) each chili powder and cumin
1 Tb (or to taste) creole seasoning
1 Tb (or to taste) garlic salt
1 lb ground beef, ground turkey or finely chopped firm or extra firm tofu (or skip this if you prefer meatless chili.  It's still good, I promise.  I made it once without meat and my husband asked me what kind of meat I used in it, no joke... but I digress...)


If using dried beans, cook them until they're done.  This goes faster if you soak them overnight.  If you did not soak them use a 3-to-1 water/bean ratio.  If you did soak, 2-to-1 is fine.  You can do this in the slow cooker if you don't want to bean-sit, or you can do it on the stove if you're willing to stir a little bit in return for a faster cooking time.

Drain the beans, rinse them if they are canned.  Put them in your crock pot and pour in one bottle of your favorite beer.  Use a decent beer.  If you dump in a can of Keystone you're not doing yourself or your chili any favors.  I used Blue Moon's Pale Ale.  Other good choices would be regular Blue Moon, Killian's Irish Red, Guinness, Sam Adams, etc.  You get the idea.  Still pretty cheap as far as alcohol goes, but a little better than the American "lite" beers.

Add in the tomatoes, peppers, onion and all of the seasonings.  Stir, cover and cook on high heat for 2-3 hours or low heat for 4-5 hours.

When the veggies are cooked through, brown the beef/turkey/tofu in a skillet and add to the chili.

At this point the chili is done.  You could eat it if you're desperate, but letting it cook for at least another hour or so on low is ideal, since all the flavors will meld and make magic happen in the pot.  It's hard to overcook this chili in a slow cooker.  You could leave it be all day on low (or warm, if it's completely done) if you wanted and it would be ready when you were.

I like to serve chili with cheddar cheese and corn chips or corn muffins.  Corn muffins are super easy and fast to make and when you use whole-grain corn and/or wheat flours you get yourself a complete protein when combined with the beans, in case you're going meatless.


Whole Grain Corn Muffins

1 cup whole wheat flour

1 cup finely ground undegerminated corn meal (tip in the directions)
1/3 cup sugar (granulated or turbinado)
2 tsp baking powder

1/2 tsp salt
1 egg
1/4 cup oil (canola, extra light olive, melted coconut, melted butter... use your personal preference)
1 cup milk


Mix the flour, sugar, baking powder salt and corn meal together.  Undegerminated corn meal is a whole grain, but it's hard to find sometimes.  Check your local health food store. If you still can't find it, try  If you can't find it and don't want to pay shipping it's fine to use regular, degerminated corn meal.

Crack in the egg, dump in the oil and milk and mix it all together.  Grease a muffin tin and fill each cup 2/3 full of the muffin mixture.  Bake at 400 degrees for 18-22 minutes, or until they look firm and well risen, slightly golden brown around the edges.


A note: you could even make these recipes vegan by omitting the meat in the chili and subbing tofu or not using any meat sub, and using soy or almond milk (unsweetened!) in the corn bread.  Replace the egg with a little apple sauce, reducing the sugar by a little if you do. 


Sunday, February 3, 2013

My Unorthodox Journey to the Knowledge that Spanking is Completely Jacked Up

I have not spoken out on parenting issues much on here.  I'm feeling compelled to now, since my family is making a transition into a more gentle parenting style to share what I have learned along the way about the very controversial topic of spanking.

I was raised by parents who spanked, who were raised by parents who spanked, so on and so forth through the generations.  Prior to becoming a mother, naturally I thought kids needed spankings in order to know right from wrong, develop self-discipline, and "know who's boss".  My parents were the type to bewail the fact that society had changed and not enough children were receiving corporal punishment (despite the fact that most kids are still spanked to this day).  I had every intention of spanking my own children.  When my daughter joined our family, though, my paradigm shifted in a dramatic way.  I didn't know what I wanted, or how I would discipline her when the time came, but I knew that spanking felt so very wrong.  The thought of raising my hand to my child with the intention of hurting her felt like a violation of every instinct in my body, all of which were screaming at me to protect this tiny person with everything that I had, up to and including my life.  I hoped that time outs and yelling would suffice (the only other punishments I ever received as a small child), but I was doubtful and kinda scared.

When my daughter entered the terrible twos I just about lost my mind.  She DID get spanked a couple of times because I just had no idea how to deal with her "misbehavior".  Time outs weren't working. I screamed myself hoarse sometimes and that didn't work either.  Then I had my son and things got even more complicated.  How do you teach a child to get along with their sibling?  How do you keep a two year old from destroying the house, herself or your sanity while you are tied to the rocking chair, nursing a newborn?  Spanking was all I knew, all my mother knew, and that's the answer I got when I asked her for advice.  I was being too soft, duh.  How would she know how to behave if I didn't teach her with an iron fist?  However, the more I tried to control her, the more frustrated we both became.

I turned to my friends.  None of their kids were spanked.  None of them were even getting time out.  And all of them were totally normal, happy, healthy kids.  They threw fits sometimes, but certainly no more than any other child I'd ever seen.  They listened to their mothers and they seemed to work together as a family rather than having the soul-destroying power struggle I was dealing with.  I asked them for help.  The answer I got was astonishing.  "Relax.  Change your attitude and adjust your expectations."

Huh?  Needless to say, I rejected that advice out of hand.  Obviously they had no idea who I was dealing with here.  Their kids must be perfectly behaved Stepford children or something because there is no way LESS control was going to help my kid.

The months passed and tensions mounted in our house.  When Max would come home at night I was laughing maniacally to myself, banking my head in the corner and Rhapsody had run amok all day long.  Nothing got done, everything was a Herculean feat.  It was terrible.

I kept getting advice from people who cared about me.  I was so conflicted.  On the one hand, my family kept saying I needed to gain control.  I needed to be more stubborn, harsher, more consistent with punishments.  On the other I had people with kids who were pacific, happy and well adjusted (which is not how the kids in my family ever acted), telling me to let go a little, change my outlook, see my daughter as a person with good intentions rather than an inconvenience to be managed.  "Then stop doing it," they would say with a good-natured shrug when I said time outs weren't working.  "Work on parenting more gently."  I would think "Time out IS gentle!"  I was so frustrated.  It seemed like so much work to stop time outs.  I asked for alternatives and got nebulous answers about changing my expectations.  Which was even more frustrating.  I knew something had to change, though.

So, I tried it.  Instead of screaming because my daughter didn't listen when I told her to do something, I tried to put myself in her shoes.  And the more I did it, the more I realized that she was smarter, better intentioned and more mature than I had ever given her credit for.  From my perspective, when she dumped out the entire container  of oatmeal, she was making a huge mess.  From her perspective, she was learning to do what mommy did.  From my point of view, when she tried to run away in the parking lot, she was putting herself in mortal danger when I was least able to protect her (getting a tiny baby out of his car seat and into the carrier takes finesse!).  From her perspective she was trying to help me by getting to the store first.

Every time I have backslid into my old habits I have paid for it.  Imriel (my son) was listening to no one and playing at the top of the stairs or otherwise putting himself or his sister in danger of bodily harm and got a small handful of spankings before I fully realized what we were doing.  His behavior during that time never improved, and he acted out in more and more ways until we stopped the spanking and sat down and came up with other solutions before he could get into trouble.  "He likes to play at the top of the stairs, how about we get a baby gate?"

The more I have turned to other, gentler methods of parenting (talking with them, explaining, giving fewer opportunities for trouble making, more opportunities for constructive play and time outside and cuddles...) the better our family has worked.  And the more I have thought of things like "What other person is it okay to hit?"  Spouses aren't allowed to hit each other to show who's boss.  Employers aren't allowed to hit employees.  We don't cuff the cashier for being rude.  All of those are examples of assault.  Who else do we scream at?  We are considered grossly out of line if we scream at a waiter for getting our order wrong.  Why is it okay to scream at a kid for exploring their world (which is their freaking job)?  I feel like we have come to see children as less than people.  We treat them like animals.  I have treated my own children like animals.  I treated them with less respect than I gave strangers in the grocery store.  Who else do we treat in such a manner?

When we realize that children are people (just like the cashier or waiter or perfect stranger) capable of learning socially acceptable behavior through modeling, talking, encouragement and love it makes absolutely no sense that they are so often hit, berated, disrespected and lorded over.  Parents are naturally leaders of their children, we don't HAVE to establish control.  They look up to us, they emulate us.  They learn to respect others as they are respected.

There is a plethora of evidence of the harms spanking does to children.  The American Academy of Pediatrics recommends against it.  The American Psychiatric Association recommends against it.  And still most American children are spanked.  I know how hard it seems.  I know how impossible it seems to get a child to act appropriately without control over them.  I know it seems like so much work when you have so little left to give to your kids.  You're frustrated drained and tired at the end of the day, your patience fraying.  I'm telling you that giving up the illusion of control (because the only person you can truly control is yourself) makes it easier.  It seems impossible. It's not.  It gets a little harder and then like magic it gets better.  There are still frustrations.  There are still hard days.  Times you want to pull your hair out.  It feels so liberating, though, for your whole family.

Get to know your kids as people.  Give it a chance.  Try to understand where they are coming from when they do things that drive you nuts and I promise your paradigm will shift too.

Saturday, February 2, 2013

Why I Don't Belong at Metal Concerts

Alirght, some of you might not consider these bands metal.  Whatever.  My husband talked me into going to a Stone Sour and Papa Roach concert last night.  He got free tickets at work and couldn't find someone to take the last ticket.  He is a huge Stone Sour fan, always has been, and when we moved here he started talking about how awesome it would be to see Cory Tyler live.  Lo and behold, prayers can bring Cory Tyler to Amarillo... but apparently they can't keep mosh pits away from my precious person.  I've been in a crowded concert before.  I've been jostled by mosh pits before.  I've had tinnitus from the ungodly volume at a rock concert before.  But this was terrifying.  Until I accepted it.  Are there five stages of terror as well as grief?  Because it sure felt like it.

Cory Tyler of Stone Sour

Halfway through the show I started enumerating the reasons I knew I was too old to be there.

1.  The first, and probably most obvious is I thought "I'm too old for this."  I didn't mean that I was afraid I'd break a hip, I meant "I'm a little too mature to be screaming at a rock band, avoiding mosh pits and trying to get the screaming teenager to stop hopping her tiny self into my back, hoping a guitar pick is flung my way."  But I did all those things.  And enjoyed it... just a little.

2.  When my back and feet started hurting from standing completely still (except for dodging moshers) I told my husband "Damn it!  I meant to take some Aleve before we came, I knew I should have taken Aleve."  Yeah.  Those words actually left my mouth.

3.  I wanted to drag a couple of completely out of control teenage girls home to their mothers and report their behavior.  The one who kept jumping INTO me, on purpose, trying to get 2 inches closer to Papa Roach.  I finally stuck out my elbow and she went around and started convulsively dancing into someone else's back.  The other kept yelling "Hi YAH!" and pretending to karate chop and kick people in front of us.  Which could have started a horrible fight right in front of me, and I didn't really want to get anyone's nosebleed on my shirt.

4.  Waiting in line to get into the concert hall a woman in front of us was telling us about a car accident her daughter had been in where her 5 year old grandson was in the front seat (both had been badly injured) and I said "Kids aren't supposed to be in the front seat until they are at least 12."  She tried to say that if he had been in his car seat he would have died because the car seat was ejected from the car and I said "Then it probably wasn't installed properly." 

5.  When Papa Roach yelled "You motherfuckers LOVE this!  You motherfuckers NEED this!" I thought first "I have fucked precisely zero mothers," and then "I'm pretty sure that psychologists would agree that YOU are the one who needs this in order to fill a void probably left by absent parents and being 3 feet tall."

Papa Roach, screaming his tiny head off
When I finally stopped thinking about all the ways I didn't belong at that concert, I started realizing that despite the negative media and my own fears, there is surprisingly little risk to being near a mosh pit.  I had asked my friends on Facebook to pray the moshing was kept to a minimum.  It didn't work, but I did learn a whole lot about them.  When they began I thought about the ways my sweater could be used as a garrote to keep myself safe.  One started where I was standing, and I still didn't get sucked into it, though.  You pretty much have to want to be in a mosh pit to be in one.  As I watched, fascinated, I realized that there are unspoken rules to these things.  If someone falls, someone picks them up.  People around the pit act as a border.  People get pushed into them and they push them back into the pit, keeping the people around them from being drawn into the fray.  Moshers make their way politely to the pit, saying "excuse me" and they don't push.  When someone got hurt, the person who did the hurting hugged them and made nice.  When a bunch of tiny girls went into the pit the men all stepped aside and let them have at it.  At that point I told my husband "Girl mosh!  I could own!" (I'm almost 6 feet tall... but I had zero intention of entering it).  It was incredible.  And by that I mean "I couldn't believe it".  I saw one elbow get thrown and at least 15 hugs.  Pretty good ratio.

My view of the pit that opened up right where I was standing

All in all, it was an uncomfortable, scary, awesome night.  I just scrubbed the smell of pot and tobacco smoke off of me, and now I'm ready to be a mom again.  Thank goodness.  I don't belong at metal concerts.

Sunday, January 27, 2013

The Wheels that Turn the World

Wow.  It has been a long time.  And a lot has happened since my last post, a lot of really good blog-worthy things that have mostly slipped my memory now because it's been a freaking eternity in blog years since I last logged in.  Our family moved to Texas (yeah... I'll go there soon, my friends), I got really involved in my cause of choice (extending the option of evidence-based birth practices to all women), I took up the violin, my kids have grown, like, a foot and a half and I've become about 6 months older and wiser (hahahaha!).

Today, let's talk about causes.  There are a plethora of organizations, coalitions, task forces, groups, protestors and other assorted activists/crazies in the world.  And if you don't like that I just called you (and myself) crazy let's get real for a second here.  If you're unstable enough to fight "the machine"... on anything... you deserve to be called crazy.  It's a terrible uphill battle most of the time.  Unless a lot of people identify with your cause you end up gathering almost zero momentum.  It's a struggle the whole time you're doing it until something gives (usually you).  My husband, who believes himself to be some sort of hedge zen master, put it quite eloquently the other day.  "Change happens naturally.  To force or resist it causes tension and stress.  Let it flow," or some such Taoist drivel.  And he's right.  Change does happen naturally.  And resisting or forcing it IS hard.  But some of us are crazy enough to know when shit needs to get done NOW, not when The Way decides to get around to fixing it.

That's how it is here in the Texas Panhandle.  I have lived and worked around birth in three different states.  In each state the denizens talked about how backward and foolish the medical community was when it came to incorporating evidence based practices.  How hard it was for people who identified as different from society at large to make a way in their lives.  How mistreated animals were, how frequently they saw children being abused, how much strife caused by drug addiction they saw in their communities, how ostracized people of different religions or sexual or gender orientations were, how little concern for the environment there was in their communities... the list is endless.  But here... HERE, I have never seen such back asswardness.  I have my work cut out for me.  In all the areas I care about most. 

But then... all of us do.  All of us who are unstable and passionate and strong enough to ascribe to a cause. We all have an uphill battle, we all meet with seemingly insurmountable obstacles.  And because we are so persistent and passionate and because our voices grow louder every time we speak, sometimes, once in a while, we get shit done.

So let's talk about your causes!  What excites you?  What makes you want to change the world?