Tuesday, January 31, 2012

A Magic-al Evening

Today's post comes from my long lost friend Alex. She is bad ass. I know her whole family and they are also ninja-like in their awesomeness. Here's a little blurbitty blurb about her:

Alex has two ragamuffins, a 4 year old girl and an 8 year old boy, who continually cause her to question her parental preparedness. Actress, writer, editor, doula, painter, and family cook, she lives in Southern California, where she actively avoids getting a real job while making a go of the whole Bohemian scene. When not idly fantasizing about yurts and eco-architecture, Alex blogs over at La Acera.


Tentatively, my son Smoochy* has Asperger’s; the experts can’t seem to come to an agreement. He has some behavioral issue that, for a couple years, made schooling outside of the home an impossibility. In real life, this means that he often appears to be an undisciplined little brat. Non-experts tell me that's what’s wrong with him, or more accurately what’s wrong with me, although I haven’t found an expert witness to testify to it. All that is neither here nor there, though. It is only the backdrop to what I really want to talk about, which is our happy place.
*Not officially his real name]

I didn’t know what to expect when I promised to take my son to Friday Night Magic, although I’ve met my fair share of geeks. More accurately, I wasn’t familiar with this particular subspecies of geeks, the Magic-the-Gathering ones, and I wasn’t sure how they would react to an 8 year old who wanted to play with them.

Magic is a Dungeons and Dragons-like card game, which is for ages 13 and up, because it’s ridiculously complicated and has some heavy themes. For instance, there's a "Vivisection" card. Accordingly, the best players are adults who have been playing for years. My son is really smart, though, and his Dad taught him how to play. He is now obsessed with it and has an encyclopedic knowledge of the card’s rules.

“Hey Mom, wanna hear what Gideon the Wraithsnakes abilities are? They’re really cool. Mom…”


“Ok. He costs 6 mana, 3 white, 3 colorless, and he has haste, and if he’s put in the graveyard it takes 5 +1/+1 counters to get him out, plus if you have 5 trample creatures…”

It being a little strange for an 8 year old to play, I quickly found that his opponents follow a pattern of interaction with him. At first, they are overly sweet and a little patronizing, the way grown-ups are when they are unused to being around kids. They think it’s endearing that an 8 year old plays Magic, and assume he's a newbie. They explain everything to him... until he finishes 5 or 6 sentences for them. It doesn’t take long for them to realize they don’t need to patronize him, and then their common interest in Magic breaks the ice. Soon enough, as they chat about +1/+1 counters, Smoochy’s opponents forget he is a kid and see him as just another Guy They Play Magic With.

This illusion is broken with a shock when they curse by mistake in front of him, or when I say it’s past his bedtime, or when he beats them. Then, the fact that he is 8 years old comes rushing back on the scene. It’s fun to watch the realization break on their faces – when they remember that he is 8 years old, and his mommy shuffles his cards for him. After that cycle happens a few times, they get in the swing of when to treat him like a Magic compatriot and when to treat him like a little kid.

The sweet thing about being at Magic, though, is that everyone avoids giving anyone else any crap. It’s the inner sanctum of geekdom, after all, and geeks have enough to put up with “on the outside” to bring any of it to Friday Night Magic. Most of the participants have something off about them, and there is an unspoken rule that you let people “do what they have to do,” which runs the gamut of all kinds of borderline antisocial, OCD-like behavior.

On this particular night, the first guy my son played had a ton of nervous tics. He would clear his throat a lot and wiggle his eyebrows, and his communications would come out in clipped sporadic bursts. He made short work of Smoochy, and we went on to the next round. Next up was a guy who looked to be about 17, with a bad case of acne.

“Do you have chicken pox?” Smoochy asked.

Oh god Oh god Oh god how do I stop him from talking without making this even more awkward?

“Are those chicken pox? Or what are those red things on your face?” Smoochy asked clearly and loudly, his voice ringing in the large room.

“Pimples. They’re pimples” replied his opponent crisply.

His ears were turning red. I felt bad. He probably gets teased, or anyway feels insecure about them. The worst thing about having pimples is that you can forget they are there because you don’t have to look at them; but everyone else does. Then, someone refers to them and you feel stupid for walking around in denial, as if you didn’t have them.

“What are pimples?” Smoochy asked, seemingly concerned they could be contagious.

“It just happens sometimes when you hit puberty,” I said, not knowing how to fix this trainwreck of a conversation.

“What’s puberty?”


“A really crappy time in your life,” the next guy over deadpanned, and we all laughed.

“That depends,” I said, “It’s going pretty well for Justin Bieber.”

We were ok from there on out, but my son proceeded to school Pimples 2-0, adding injury to insult. Smoochy dutifully shook his hand and said “good game,” which I’ve taught him to do at the end of any game, as it helps mitigate any unsportsmanlike behavior.

The next opponent was a guy with a black/red vampire deck who was pretty average-looking and businesslike. He tried to talk down to Smoochy a bit, showing him every card before playing it and over-explaining its abilities. He somehow didn’t take the hint that Smoochy is a walking Magic card catalogue.

“I KNOW,” wheezed Smoochy for the tenth time.

“Ok, I’m just trying to be helpful,” replied average-dude.

“You’ve said that like a thousand times,” complained Smoochy.

Communications were getting frosty, and I didn’t particularly like Mr. Vampire Deck. When he threw down Rakish Heir and pronounced it “Rack-ish Heir,” Smoochy jumped on the opportunity to correct him. “It’s RAKE-ish Heir,”. We’re pretty strict about Smoochy pronouncing the words right, so he was a little blown away by the error. “Rakish” is one of the vocabulary words I teach in my GRE class, and I couldn’t pass up the opportunity to jump on the know-it-all bandwagon.

“It means, ‘Smart, dashing, dapper, sporting, flashy, debonair’,” I chimed in.

That’s the other great thing about Friday Night Magic; you can act like you are one of the guys on The Big Bang Theory and nobody will give you any crap; in fact, you’ll blend in. It’s liberating to not have to be cool, to let your freak flag fly, and conversely, to let everyone do their thing without judging them. At this point, we’d officially ganged up on the know-it-all; he was chastened and looked at the picture of the Rakish vampire with fresh eyes.

“He does look pretty dashing,” he said.

“Like a vampire Fabio,” I replied.

By far the dorkiest conversation happened in between games, when Smoochy struck up a conversation with a surprisingly hipster-looking youth, and they compared decks.

“Hey, you have Negate. I have Negate too,” said the hipster.

“If we were playing each other, I could Negate your Negate,” giggled Smoochy.

“Yeah, and then I could Negate that Negate,” said the hipster.

“That would be a double negation,” I chipped in.

“Yeah, and if we had all the Negates allowed in a deck, we could do it 8 times!” said the hipster.

“That would be cool!” laughed Smoochy.

“More like it would NOT be UNcool,” I said.

Friday Night Magic goes on till 1 in the morning, but Smoochy can’t stay up that late, yet. After one more round it was time to go. He usually suckers a booster pack out of me as part of our exit strategy, but the evening is such a refreshing change of pace from his usual behavior/my usual embarrassment that I’m in too much of a good mood to mind.

More importantly, I’m proud of him. Not many 8 year olds can go head to head with thirtysomethings in a dragon-filled version of chess and come out ahead, as he often does. Given our track record of school suspensions and judgmental clucking while waiting in line, seeing him excel at something is all the more fulfilling. His aptitude for Magic is extraordinary, and I love watching him do his thing. Friday Night Magic has made me realize that maybe I always wanted a geek for a son.

(c)Herding Turtles, Inc. 2009 - 2011

Thursday, January 26, 2012

The Round-Up: Lydia Was TV, Cookies and Star Wars

This week's very exciting round-up includes cookies! And Star Wars! And loads of videos! Can?! You?! Feel?! The?! Excitement?!

Have you ever dealt with the 5 Minute Car Nap? It sucks balls. One of our gorgeous and talented RFML mommies sent us this video of her doing everything within her power to keep her toddler from falling asleep in the car and we thought it was awesome, so we wrote about it. Click here.

First up, if your kids like Star Wars, check out the top 12 Star Wars-themed videos on YouTube. Geeks and non-geeks alike will enjoy it, as I strongly believe that everyone can benefit from more Weird Al Yankovic in their lives. Click here.

It's Girl Scout cookie time and that means you will soon fall under the thrall of that evil, dark goddess THIN MINTS. I have such a special relationship with Girl Scout Cookies of all kinds, that I renamed them. With better names. Like "PTA Chronic", because we all know that stuff is mommy-crack. Click here.

Oh and of course the big news is that Lydia was on TV by herself and she didn't fall down! Or throw up! Kate's fancy job on Rock Center with Brian Williams means she can't go on TV anymore. So after a couple of months of Kate nagging her to go ahead and do it on her own, Lydia - like an idiot - decided she'd give it a try.

I think we can all agree that the result is a wonderous combination of whuck and whaaaa? I talked to the very sweet but somewhat undernourished talk show host Melanie Hastings, like I would talk to one my friends in real life. And then I watched the video and I was like - "That's what I sound like? OH DEAR GOD."

When it was over, I got a text from my friend Mimi that said: "I wuv you!! You awesome. Glad you did not choke on your vomit."

That may have been the best text I have ever received. And it pretty much says it all.

That clip also makes an announcement for me. I got a part time job teaching classes in Global and Community Health at a local university and I'm really, really excited about it but also extremely concerned that at any minute they will call me and tell me they were just kidding. People pay good money to send their kids to that school. My academic credentials notwithstanding, we all know that my children have eaten my brain. There's very little left. Just the part that knows how to make coffee and say "Don't forget to flush the potty."

But it's also sort of magical. Because I get to teach the class that changed my life when I was an undergrad. I love Public Health! Could I be a bigger nerd? I love Public Health and The Lord of the Rings Trilogy! There.


(c)Herding Turtles, Inc. 2009 - 2011

Wednesday, January 25, 2012

10 Things I Lost in the Move

I moved last fall. It was awful. That being said, I love our new house and I feel so lucky to be here. I wake up every day with this feeling of lightness and relief because the move is over. It was sort of like Jr. High School - I don't regret doing it and I know it was an important rite of passage that helped get me where I was supposed to be. But I hated every f*cking minute of it.

And like Junior High, I did not handle it well. I was a petulant misery to be around. I was exhausted and stressed and my stupid beloved husband was on the other side of the country traveling for work. So I had to do most of it alone. I shouldn't complain - single parents and military families do it and they don't spend all their time whining about how hard it is.

But as I said - didn't handle it well.

You don't necessarily realize what you've lost for a while. Then it's a month later and you're all "Where is that fruit bowl that your Aunt Jane lent us?" and you go to look for it and can't find it. Then after a fruitless and frustrating search, you come to the conclusion that it's just gone.

Then there's the other stuff you lose. The stuff that goes missing into the ether and paints a very interesting picture of the whole process, as well as your questionable mental health. So here's a list of things I lost while moving.

10. Every single pair of my son's underpants. What?

9. One large Justin Beiber poster. By "accident".

8. My ability to not shriek and instead ask nicely to please hurry up because we're late.

7. The Dora backpack that sings really loud and doesn't have an off-switch.

6. Four weeks of sleep.

5. My desire to cook or eat anything healthy or anything other than take-out. [Editor's note - it was not unlike the Morgan Spurlock documentary "Supersize Me" except for some bizarre reason I actually lost about 5 pounds.]

4. Pictures of myself in college while on spring break in Jamaica. Also on accident. They sort of fell into the grill while there was a really big fire in it.

3. An athletic cup. Not the strappy part that holds it in place. Just the cup. Huh?

2. The most heinous red tie in the history of ever, purchased at JC Penney in the early 90's worn for the sole purpose of annoying me.

1. My sense of humor.*

*I eventually got it back.

(c)Herding Turtles, Inc. 2009 - 2011

Tuesday, January 24, 2012

5 Things Little Kids Can Get Away With

Hi everyone! It's me, Guru Louise. How are you? My kids have been adorable but disgusting lately, so Kate & Lydia let me write about it.

I think we can all attest to the amazing power children possess to completely defy embarrassment. They seem to have no shame about, well, anything. Recently I’ve witnessed my children in cringe-worthy situations and instead of looking sheepish they look like they don’t give two schmidts about what just happened. These are things that would leave any adult petrified, horrified, or stupefied .  Honey badger don’t care, people.

Bad Haircuts. 
Either the barber just gets a little too buzzer-happy, mom/dad discovers kids’ haircuts are not a DIY job, or you shell out a decent amount of money for a fancy haircut at the fun place with the chairs that look like a spaceship only to have a chick who looks like she’s 9 years-old butcher your son’s gorgeous red locks to smithereens (ahem, I’m not bitter…). In any case, you take a step back, look at your child and whisper, “Oh dear Maude, what have I done???” 

He looked like this but less cute.
Thankfully, I managed to pull it together and get my vanity in-check before my son saw the horrified look on my face. I’m not exaggerating when I say he looked exactly like a short, plump little Spock or Lloyd Christmas. But did that kid look upset or ask to wear a hat for the next 4-6 weeks? Nah, he didn’t bat an eyelash. He just gave me his version of the Maude face that seemed to communicate, ‘Ain’t no thang to have a bad haircut when you’re a kid, mom.’

Peeing/ Pooping Oneself. 
Before I potty-trained my daughter I’d heard from other moms that the best motivator would be to let her soil herself. I was told she’d find the mess embarrassing and that would be enough to spur her to use the potty. Um, whuck?! Have you met my kid? On Day 1 of potty training I swear to you that she stood on the living room rug peeing and pooping herself while simultaneously asking for a fruit roll up. She didn’t miss a beat. No shame, mom. No shame.

Talking about Peeing and Pooping.   
This is an addendum to the above. I am still consistently shocked at how little modesty my daughter has about her bathrooming habits. I have to regularly remind her that I don’t need to hear about the size, shape, and density of her bowel movements…but what’s truly humiliating is when she feels the need to announce them in very public places, like church or ballet class. For example, about a month after my kid was finally successfully potty trained she yelled this gem in the middle of a crowded supermarket produce section: “MOOOMMMM! I'M FARTING! I'M FARTING! I THINK THAT MEANS MY POOP IS COMING OUT IN MY UNDERPANTS!”  Suffice it to say, she found nothing wrong with that over-share but I was mortified.

Anything Having to Do with Booogers. 
This time of year your average toddler is a drippy, coughing germ circus. And no adult (who wasn’t an escapee from the Home for the Demented and Bewildered) would EVER walk around with snot running liberally down their face.  Nor would an adult would ever dig for gold in plain view without embarrassment. Mine do it with pride. And no adult - failing to have a tissue on hand  - would either eat the evidence or just use their shirt. Please tell me they will age out of this. PLEASE. You can lie, it’s fine.

Undies on Backwards. 
My husband is out the door to work each morning at 5:30am, which means in the winter he’s getting dressed in a dark bedroom. He struggles to find his belt and other sock, all the while bumping into stuff and whisper-cursing like a trucker. And then invariably around 9am I’ll get an email from him saying, “I just went to go take a leak and discovered my undies are on backwards again. FROWN.” It presents quite a predicament: does he strip down in the bathroom stall and fix the mistake or does he walk around all day with his undies on wrong? Meanwhile, as I’m reading his email, my kid walks by with her undies on backward, no pants, wearing a tiara, a cape, and socks on her hands and announces “I’m ready for preschool!”. 

(c)Herding Turtles, Inc. 2009 - 2011

Monday, January 23, 2012

The Birthday Present Dilemna

Grandpa is getting me a pony!
Today's post comes from our friend Rob. You might remember him as the dad who gets annoyed when old ladies ask him if he's babysitting and he's all: "I'm not babysitting. SHE'S MY KID."

A little more about him:
Rob Kristoff was educated as a Pastor, licensed as a teacher, but works as a freelance writer.  But in reality he spends most of his time with his daughter, who just turned 6.  Read more of his writing at www.ourdaysarejustfilled.com (where they call him 'Monkey's Uncle') & www.RobKristoffWriting.blogspot.com

Or follow him on Twitter:  @RobKristoff.

The other day I got a pleasant and  unexpected opportunity, and it brought on a sort of epiphany.  I write stories for a website, and through some contest that I was unaware we were a part of, I won a gift certificate to this kids’ clothing place that seemed very expensive and exclusive.  I’d already been thinking about writing what you’re reading now, but this sort of crystallized and encapsulated the thoughts that were forming.

In my little family, we don’t have enough money.  I mean, who does, right?  But I only say that to explain why Grandma and Grandpa, friends,  aunts and uncles, and whoever, might feel the need to give us things.  And they’re nice things!  Objects that we can’t, in good conscience, replace just because we’re proud.  Often, they’re the things we’d buy anyway, if we could.  Which is cool:  My kid wears the kind of clothes and shoes, and rides bikes, that she really might not, if generous others hadn’t given them to us. 

I’m thankful for those things others have given us  Let me emphasize that point.  Ever since she was born, people have been incredibly generous.  And I also love the aspect of family wherein her mother goes shopping with her and comes home with new things I’ve never seen before.  Really. 

But there’s always been an undercurrent, since the very beginning, and in my head it sounds something like this:  Do you really think I don’t want to buy my daughter cute stuffed animals?  Or pretty clothes?  And yet, shouldn’t I be spending that money on bills, especially when someone else gives her these things?  But what do I give up, by not allowing myself that experience?

But then there’s also this:  I don’t want to teach my daughter to value things more than people.  Or  relationships, and adventures.  And with all the possessions she gets from others, I don’t feel like it’s philosophically responsible to buy her even more.  Especially when I know the truth- that less is often more, that a simpler life materially can often mean a happier life spiritually and/or emotionally.  ‘How much does she NEED?’ is a much better question than ‘How much stuff can fit into our house?’

I'm three and I have an iPad. Suck on THAT.
So with all that in mind, I’ve started buying her impromptu tiny gifts.  A little Japanese puzzle eraser that looks like a hamster.  A 29 cent pink bear.  And now, thanks to that pennies-from-Heaven gift card, a new pair of rain boots, some wool mittens, and a hat I liked:  just because.  And it felt good.

Which leads us, inevitably, to the birthday problem, as we all knew it had to.  What does the Minimalist- Zen Master- Great Provider do when Grandma or Grandpa, despite all his pleas, literally buries his child with gifts at birthdays or winter holidays?

I want to take a stand for that old bit of folk wisdom that ‘they like the box as much as the present’, but to be honest, I also feel a little competitive about it all.  “You think YOU can buy her the perfect gift?” I want to say,  “Wait’ll you see what I buy her!”  Oh, sure, it sounds funny, but it’s a very real feeling.  Painfully so.

So I try to go for less volume and more quality.  I hope she someday appreciates this, even if she doesn’t notice it just yet.  But isn’t that a moment too subtle to hope for?  “Wow, everyone else bought me tons of junk that first birthday, but Dad bought me a wooden rattle- dyed with organic vegetable dyes- that looked like a monkey.  And it set the course for my life:  Minimal- but ecologically responsible and high-quality- material possessions.” Um, yeah…

This is the view from the trenches of this neo-recession.  This is the tension that some of us who are- let’s face it- overeducated and underpaid, live in.  To those who know me:  this is why any sort of gift-giving holiday leaves me crosseyed, and with the veins in my temples throbbing. 

Still, those red-striped boots are pretty sweet…

(c)Herding Turtles, Inc. 2009 - 2011

Friday, January 20, 2012

Things I Never Want To Say Again Because I Am Always F**king Saying Them

I love my kids so much but I swear to Maude, I have to tell them the same schmidt about twenty times a day and I'm about to freak the freak out. Would you like an example? Here we go. I don't want to say "Please pick up your coats and shoes" anymore. In fact, if I say it again - my right eyeball will start throbbing and then it will explode.

But if I don't say those words then every, single time we all come in the house, there would be a huge pile of outerwear, backpacks and boots in the entryway that would act as a barrier for all who try to enter.

Then I would be all like this:
Because all the coats and stuff are blocking the door. Sorry.
And you know what? I don't want to be Gandalf. I really don't. So I vented to my Guru Louise and Kate and they said they do the same thing. And that made me feel slightly better. So I made a list of the stuff we have said at least 10,000 times and never, ever want to say again.

(1) Do NOT go outside in just your socks. Wear shoes or go barefoot or stay inside. Those socks were new and now they're black on the bottom.

(2) Flush the potty. JUST. FLUSH. IT. I don't want to see what you made.

(3) It's winter, please put on some pants.

(4) Newsflash. You didn't "take a shower" if you didn't use soap.

(5) Why would you put your dirty underwear back in the drawer? It smells like a rest stop bathroom in here.

(6) You're not hungry, you're bored. Go eat an apple. SEE?! If you were actually hungry, you would eat the apple.

(7) The cat really doesn't appreciate that.

(8) For the love of Maude, POOP GOES IN THE POTTY.

(9) Where are your gloves? Seriously – what do you do with them?

(10) Please get your towel off of the floor. It. Does. Not. Have. Legs. It cannot walk back to the towel rack.

(11) Did you brush your teeth? Do we brush our teeth every day? Is there a special "Don't Brush Your Teeth Day" that I didn't know about?

(12) No one wants to see your parts. That is not funny.

(13) Do not play Dragon Ball Z-Kai with your baby sister! She’s a person!

(14) TURN DOWN THE VOLUME ON THE DANG TV! I AM NOT YELLING! I asked you about 20 times in my normal voice to turn it down but you had freaking Phineas and Ferb and The Way of The Platypus so jacked up that you couldn't hear me.

(15) Hands aren't for hitting. Feet aren't for kicking. (But wine is for drinking.)

Feel free to add your own below, I'm sure they're as whacktacular as ours.

(c)Herding Turtles, Inc. 2009 - 2011

Thursday, January 19, 2012

Yee-Haw! It's A Round Up!!

So today I want to share some stuff with you guys.

First, a couple of posts I wrote for Babble:

People whose in-laws are obviously insane gave them presents and we get to laugh at them.

Disgusting GOOP that has to do with bathtubs but thankfully nothing at all to do with Gwyneth Paltrow.

Women complain about men and then it turns out everyone is pretty much equally assholic.

My kids are late to school because I am an idiot (and other reasons that you guys helped me with).

Second, some stuff our friends did:

Remember how we went to Chicago to hang out (awkwardly) with Second City people and eat Totino's Pizza Snatchers and I couldn't keep Kate off the pole?  Well, one of our friends from that trip is a BRILLIANT and incredibly nice actress/writer/comedian named Wendy Mateo and she just made this video and we loved it - especially the last line:

This is a post that Pregnant Chicken did this week that I have looked at about thousand times. Porn for Pregnant Ladies (but trust me, you don't have to be preggo to appreciate this).

Did you look at it? Then you're very welcome. Awesome, right? The Chicken is not an international superstar for nothing.

Thirdly, a little something about the interwebs. 

Have you guys heard about SOPA? Or did you notice that Google had it's logo blacked out yesterday? Or that Wikipedia and some other websites shut themselves down in protest? It's because there's legislation in the House and Senate to prevent internet piracy that if passed, could shut down a lot of major websites. Basically, internet people are freaking out about this.

Obviously, you should make up your own mind.
Honestly, we would probably be shut down, too, even though we're small potatoes. We try and make sure we use legit sources for photos, artwork and videos. But we know that some things we use are probably walking a line. And over time, we've linked to YouTube videos, etc. that would qualify us for the naughty list.  Example? That "Elmo and I Know It" video from earlier this week.

We totally agree that stealing is bad. We've been ripped off in spectacular fashion before. And even though we tried to be all cool and laugh it off and take the high road, it still chafes my keister.And the issue of people or companies stealing films and music and other stuff and redistributing them for profit is serious bidness.

Now we don't claim to know that much about this legislation - we're not experts. But we do know we'll be effected by it. And if you spend a lot of time on sites like Facebook, YouTube, Blogger, Wordpress, Wikipedia, Reddit or Pinterest - then so will you. This article was helpful.

Anyway, here are two responses to SOPA/PIPA from bloggers who we love and admire.

The Oatmeal made a lil' movie for us all! And it's filled with love. Also, some good info.

Here's a clip from Jenny The Bloggess - whom we love so much that's unhealthy.

And what's with them both talking about kittehs? Interesting...

(c)Herding Turtles, Inc. 2009 - 2011

Wednesday, January 18, 2012

The Yenta Answers Your Questions

Dearest fabulous RFML readers, 

What a warm welcome! I’m thrilled to be part of the Mommyland family- and promise to live up to all of the expectations you have of a good Yenta... Big hair, big boobs, big mouth.  Since you can’t see me, you’ll have to take my word that I do indeed possess all three qualifications.  Like Lydia mentioned we go way back to high school cheerleading, and I’m pretty sure that the three aforementioned attributes are what got us onto the squad in the first place since I don’t remember being able to complete one cartwheel between the two of us.

[Editor's Note: I could do a round off. Does that count? xo, Lydia]

Let’s get down to business, shall we?

First, the issue of the garlic press. I certainly got a rise out of a lot of you with this one…

Let me just put my cards on the table- I’m against all unnecessary gadgets that take up valuable drawer space.  I’m equally against tools that perform a task that can be done just as easily with a knife or your hands.  And the last reason… have you ever see Julia Child, Morimoto or Bobby Flay whip out a garlic press? No, because they are the real deal.  Say it with me now…  “I Am The Real Deal.”  With a little help from the Yenta, you will soon be much more confident in the kitchen and won’t be needing any cute gadgets!

Ok, let’s put that one behind us.  I know you are still going to use your garlic press, but I also know the next time you do, you will feel a little Yenta guilt…

I have chosen five fabulous questions to answer this week- and hopefully in doing so will address some of the other issues out there.

1. The Koenig Family wrote that they are afraid of fish! Trust me; the fish is MUCH more scared of you than you are of it.  Does that rule apply to fish or just spiders? In any event, nothing to be scared of when it comes to preparing fish. I find that if you know how to cook a chicken breast, you are halfway there.  You could take shrimp, cod, haddock, tilapia or swordfish and sauté gently in some olive oil, a bit of butter (just a bit is okay), some onions, peppers and tomatoes.  Throw in a few chopped olives and some capers…    Easy Breezy! Dinner is served.

2.  Q:  Kate wrote:  “I want to learn to eat greens. I mean, like collards and turnip greens and all those things you generally walk right by in the grocery store. There's a whole SECTION of greens. It's between the celery and the bell peppers."

Swiss Chard is even sort of pretty.
Kate- this was perhaps my favorite question! The grocery store is my mother ship.  I realize I may be in alone in this next statement, but grocery shopping is a relaxing and exciting experience for me.  I fully understand that this is NOT the case for most people.  It’s no coincidence that the wheels on the shopping carts are cockeyed and broken…   I see people taking intense aggravation and frustration out on those poor carts.  Hey Lady- it’s not the cart’s fault that you are overwhelmed by the 17 different varieties of lettuce.  But…  I digress.

The best way to try out some new leafy greens is to dive right in! I recommend starting with Swiss Chard- similar to spinach but with a little more sex appeal.  As with ALL greens, wash thoroughly.  The quickest way to ruin a bite of greens is a mouthful of dirt and grit.  Wash, wash, wash… use a salad spinner if you have one! (Yes, I approve the Salad Spinner!) Remove the leaves from the stalk and rip or cut into large bite-sized pieces.   (Don’t discard the stalks- add to the onions and garlic in recipe below and sauté before you add the leaves.  Why waste?)

A good all-purpose recipe for greens is to sauté a bit of minced garlic and minced onion in olive oil-(not Extra Virgin), put the greens in the pan, let wilt, toss, sprinkle with salt and pepper – done.  The whole process takes less than 5 minutes. 

Other greens worth trying:
Broccolini: The Angelina Jolie of Broccoli.  A little skinner and much more elegant than short and stubby Broccoli.
Kale: Is like Diane Keaton’s style...  we’re not sure what to make of it.  Is it just for decoration or can you eat it? Yes, you can! Can be eaten cooked OR raw.  Check out the recipe for
Whole Meal Salad.
Mustard Greens:  Kind of like the hot chic on Modern Family- a little nutty and a little spicy.
Arugula: Meryl Streep. A winner. So versatile.  Raw in a salad, cooked with pasta, on and on…
Beet Greens:  Julia Roberts.  Classic, timeless and will always make you smile.  These greens are best sautéed in a bit of butter, salt, pepper and if you are feeling fun, add a bit of orange zest.  Beets love orange.

That should get you inspired next time you wander past the Leafy Greens section in the produce department.  Also, keep in mind that all of the above are busting with vitamins and fiber! SO good for you! Go get em’ girl!

3.  I loved the questions about Quinoa from Abigail and MK. On my blog The Oy of Cooking, I've said that there is NO way to enjoy Quinoa.  Well…  I take it back.  I have found a way. Not unlike how many of you said you have to “hide” veggies in your children’s food, hiding the Quinoa is how I have learned to enjoy it.  

I’ve discovered that  if you create a salad using Quinoa with Brown Rice and Wheat berries*, you will actually build a dish with many textures and flavors – add some chopped nuts, some minced dried fruit and an orange/honey dressing.  It will almost be as decedent as granola, but without all the fat.  You can go savory as well – use the same three grains and add diced red onion, some black beans, some shucked corn kernels, cilantro and a red wine vinaigrette.  Serve warm or cold…

The mystery of Quinoa… solved.

These are cooked wheatberries.
[Editor's note - I had to ask The Yenta what the hell wheatberries were. Also? I happen to love quinoa but the rest of the family hates it. - xo, Lyd] 

Lydia, wheatberries are darling little grains that have a nutty taste and popcorn like texture.  You can add that description and these cooking instructions: In a kettle of boiling salted water cook the wheatberries for 1 hour, or until they are tender, and drain them.  Run under cold water to stop cooking and bring temp down.

4. Wow, a LOT of questions about how to get your kids to eat vegetables… 

A few summers ago my sister-in-law was having this exact issue with her two little ones.  She did something genius that had her kids do a complete 180 in the veggies department… They planted a garden.  The kids had to take care of growing cucumbers, tomatoes, zucchini, yellow squash, string beans, peppers and so on and so forth…

Because they had planted the seeds, watered them, watched them grow, picked them, helped to cook them… they were naturally curious to taste them!  Hasn’t been a problem since.  In fact, the kids have become much more adventurous in their eating… a few months ago we went to an Italian restaurant and MJ’s (5) eyes lit up when I ordered grilled Octopus.  He tasted it, and LOVED it.  Every time I see him now he asks if I brought an Octopus with me.  Yes, I did… its right here in my purse.

But another idea that doesn't take quite so long is to have the kids pick out the veggies in the store…  Let them choose a couple of new things to try each time they go. Have them put together a little pre-dinner crudité with the veggies they picked out and some ranch dressing or some hummus. Dip is good.

5. Anonymous wrote that her rice is Globby… 

Cooking rice: NEVER STIR and you will never get globby rice again.  The basic recipe for rice is 1 cup of rice to 2 cups of water or stock.  Also, rice goes in the pot with cold water- not boiling.  Follow these directions: a bit of fat (oil or butter) in the pot, add rice, stir until rice is coated in fat.  Add water.  Bring to boil, reduce heat to simmer and cover for approx. 20 minutes.  DO NOT STIR.  Taste rice to test for doneness.  If the texture is where you want it, remove from heat and fluff with a fork- never a spoon.

That’s a basic recipe- now go ahead and add all the flavors and ingredients you desire.

I hope you have found the info useful and I look forward to many more questions next month! Leave your questions in the comments section. Lydia has already asked me why convection ovens are supposed to be good. In the meantime, you can follow my weekly blog The Oy of Cooking and join the Dish with the Yenta… Facebook page for updates! 

Laura P. Lyons
Dish with the Yenta…
Because everybody loves some good dish…

(c)Herding Turtles, Inc. 2009 - 2011

Tuesday, January 17, 2012

The Funniest Song Lyrics Kids Ever Got Wrong

Last week, after hearing her son sing a heartwarming rendition of "Boobs like Jagger", Lydia asked you to send us the funniest song lyrics your kids ever got wrong and they were so awesome.

Being indecisive and not wanting to play favorites, we asked our buddies Guru Louise, Mom in a Million, Stark.Raving.Mad.Mommy and the international superstar Pregnant Chicken (she's from Canada) to help us.

Here are the ones that made us snort our loud:

From:  Anonymous on Jan 12, 2012 10:20 PM
My daughter is not old enough to mess up lyrics yet, but growing up my favorite one was for the song "Summer Breeze makes me feel fine..." My friend thought it was "Summer's Eve makes me feel fine...". Everbody laughed and she didn't know why until she got older and found out what Summer's Eve was.

From: My side of the fence on Jan 12, 2012 10:03 PM
My daughter Alex thought the words to "Get Down Tonight" were: "Do a little dance, smack that duck, get down tonight"....she used to sing it all the time lol

From: Kara on Jan 12, 2012 10:05 AM
This one struck me so funny that I had to pull the car over because I was laughing so hard. My 8 yo daughter thought the words to a Katy Perry song was "I kicked a squirrel and I liked it!" and she was quite upset that someone would be so mean.

From Anonymous on Jan 13, 2012 06:30 AM
Both my boys sang, "I got to move my dragon, I got to move my dragon!"

From: Anonymous on Jan 12, 2012 02:36 PM
 When my daughter was little she sang "Don't you wish your goldfish was hot like me!"
And more of a mistake of the mouth than thinking if the wrong words- once she was singing Beyonces Halo- supposed to be "baby I can see your Halo" and she belted out "Baby I can see your A- hole!"

From: Milli on Jan 12, 2012 10:06 AM
We went through a phase of listening to a lot of Schoolhouse Rock.  I can't hear it now without thinking of the lyrics my son (then age 4) supplied... "Lolly lolly lolly get your badgers here!"

From: Julia on Jan 12, 2012 07:59 AM
My three year old had two that really stuck:  "Waving your bladder all over the place" in We Will Rock You.

From Christine on Jan 12, 2012 07:25 AM
Beach Boys "Help Me Rhonda" by my 7 year old:  "Since you let me down I've got owls poopin in my head."

From: Tamar A. on Jan 12, 2012 03:58 AM
The other day we were headed to preschool and my 3-and-a-half year old son suddenly "sang", "I like big trucks and I cannot lie!" That was apparently all he knew, and I have no idea where he heard the original.

From: Anonymous on Jan 13, 2012 02:13 PM 
A friend's little brother used to sing "Big ol' Jed had a rhino. . " instead of "Big old jet airliner". But I actually think that's what Steve Miller Band sings if you listen!

From: Katy on Jan 12, 2012 06:13 AM
While driving a few months back my three year old started dancing and singing along with Lady Gaga. At first it was just a bunch of gibberish, but then came the chorus-
"Can't eat my, can't eat my, no he can't eat my POPCORN FACE! It is so yummy, yummy!"
Mommy had to pull over until she could get her laughing under control.

And at the suggestion of our dear friend Stark.Raving.Mad.Mommy, we have a couple of categories…
From: Anonymous on Jan 12, 2012 11:37 AM
My 3 year old son just spent the last 2 months singing "Hark the Herald Angels Sing. Glory to the New Donkey!" That can't be good.
From KimR on Jan 12, 2012 06:28 AM
My son thinks Pumped Up Kicks is Funked Up Kicks, but when he actually sings it, it sounds like F*cked Up Kicks. No amount of arguing, begging, bribing or pleading will convince him that A) I'm right, or B) please don't sing that song in public.

From Barkingkel on Jan 13, 2012 10:17 AM
My girls sing "I throw my hands up in the air sometimes saying AO Galileo"

From EviesMomma on Jan 12, 2012 10:08 AM
Apparently he's not Michael Jackson, he's called Uncle Jackson. Try as I may, I cannot convince my 3.5 year old of his actual name. We had this conversation this morning while she danced her version of Thriller for me.
From Anonymous on Jan 13, 2012 05:35 AM
I'm guilty of this too and I'm 35. Before my husband corrected me, I thought the lyrics to that same song were, "You've got the moves, Luck Dragon'...you know, Falcor? That big, flying dog thing in The Neverending Story? Yeah, he does have the moves...

And the overall winner of the title of
From: My side of the fence on Jan 12, 2012 10:03 PM
My daughter Alex thought the words to "Get Down Tonight" were: "Do a little dance, smack that duck, get down tonight"....she used to sing it all the time lol

And for those of you who (like me) maybe, possibly let their kids listen to songs that are in questionable taste, we have this 100% safe for work and small eyes/ears parody of LMFAO's Sexy (and I know it).

(c)Herding Turtles, Inc. 2009 - 2011

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