First Cookbook Giveaway! Eat It Up People!

Do you eat? I hope so. Then listen up! I have a cookbook to give away. Yep. I have my first real and true blog giveaway, and I can’t think of a better thing for me to give away than a COOKBOOK! The lovely folks over at Random House and Blogging for Books have offered to give one of my readers a copy of this-

                         The B.T.C. Old Fashioned Grocery Cookbook.

 Ya’ll, this is an awesome cookbook. Even if you personally don’t cook or use cookbooks, enter the giveaway, because the book would make a terrific Christmas gift.  And it smells really good. You know what I'm talking about! It's got that great, new book smell! 

Here is my review of the book-

Before I even opened up this book, the way the textured cover and heft of it felt in my hand made me want to love it. And then when I flipped through it, I fell madly in love. Water Valley, Mississippi, what a blessing you have in Beuren and Grimes, an unlikely pair who together have curated a little lunch counter from heaven, and a grocery selection that would make a Whole Foods patron jealous. Everything about this book, from the memorable stories of the small town folk who patron the B.T.C., to its humble beginnings, like how it went from a one tomato produce stand to a vibrant, delectable, and eclectic foodie heaven, makes the B.T.C.  (stands for Be The Change) cookbook one that should definitely sit on your shelf. The short stories Beuren intertwines throughout tell many charming tales, are unpretentiously written, and reflect a down home yet worldly take on  running a small business, sustainable supplying of groceries, and southern food culture. Grimes’ recipes, most of which are served at the B.T.C., is a mashup of the south meets sophistication. Consider the soup chapter, which includes a Catfish Gumbo next to a Roasted Pear and Zucchini Soup. Or my favorite chapter, breakfast, where your  mouth can water skimming over the  four recipes for gravy, as well as the Honey Goat Cheese Frittata with Prosciutto and Arugula. (Unbelievably, this is in Mississippi.) Along with these semi gourmet recipes, Grimes keeps it real with dishes like an amazing Sweet Potato Casserole with Marshmallows and Coconut Crumble, Baked Brussels Sprouts Casserole, Tex-Mex Pimento Cheese Spread, and Peach Icebox Pie. This is 250 pages of appetizing heaven, and I haven’t even mentioned the full page gorgeous photographs. Do yourself a favor, either take a road trip to the heart of Mississippi and visit the B.T.C., or buy their cookbook. You will be happy either way. 

So here is what you do; Click on the link below and fill out the form. Contest starts today! Winner will be contacted by publisher and your book will be shipped to you. Giveaway ends September 15, 11:59 p.m.  

If This Is The First Year All Your Kids In School- RELAX! You've Earned it!

Two years ago it happened. The day I had been waiting, anticipating, and desperately pining for like no other day. After being an at home mom to four little boys for 14 years, all of my boys would finally be in school. All of them, in real school, all day. I was bursting at the seams when I finally dropped the youngest son off at kindergarten. The whole day lay ahead of me, and with it so many deliciously liberating options!  I could go home and go back to bed. I could go sit in a coffee shop all day and never have to physically get up out of my seat. I could read a magazine from start to finish, all at one sitting, with the same cup of HOT coffee……WHAT!?!?

Unfortunately, I ended up doing very little of that. Instead, when people, places, and things started to come a-knockin’ for help, I said that blasted three letter word, “YES.”

“Yes!” I said, “I can totally do that for you, because you know, all my kids are in school now!”

“Yes!” I said, “I can help chair that and run that and organize that, because you know, all my kids are in school now!"

“YES!” I said, “I know the school library needs help. I used to be a librarian! I can come whenever you need, and also substitute any day you need me, because you know, all my kids are in school now!”

“Yes!” I said, “I will start working a few hours a month teaching at the local college! Because you know, all my kids……..”

Flash forward to this fall, where I found myself burnt out, defeated, and ultimately writing an essay on the five ways I will be a different school mom this year. Read it here.

Anywho, notice anything odd about the very first way I am going to be different? I will be speaking a new word. It is “No.”  Feedback from just that one statement was met with bitterness and rage among my so called fellow peer mothers, some of whom felt the need to tell me what a selfish, lazy, and shameful mother I was for saying “No.”  GASP! Good mothers don’t use that word! Yes, I sure am lazy, because the prior 14 years at home raising four rambunctious little boys totally included couch lounging marathons. I was even told I had started a volunteerism war between mothers in their 40s and mothers in their 20s, dividing the groups unnecessarily. (Still trying to figure out that one.) What they failed to realize is I had kept up an insane schedule of school and community involvement while I still had little ones at home, and then just jacked it up ten notches when they were all in school. And all I was left with was exhaustion and resentment, and for me, that is a first rate recipe for anger. Who wants an angry mom? Not my husband, and not my sons. 

What I had failed to realize two years ago was that it was ok to take time for me for once. It was perfectly ok to spend that first year when all the kids were finally in school, in a kind of debriefing of sorts. Heaven knows I had earned it. It’s almost as if I had a minor form of some type of mothering PTSD.  (NOT relating being home with kids to war, ok? So save the backlash) It was like latent stress born of years and years of the endless meeting the needs and wants of small children 24/7, and now I was back from that ‘war’ so to speak, and needed to decompress from it all. I failed to realize it was ok to relish in the peacefulness of the house,  to meditatively eat a hot lunch that wasn’t the leftover crumbs of a three year old’s plate. It was ok to be taking a bath at 11 a.m. in total silence, or to take a long walk where nobody knew where I was going, or to just simply sit and rest my body and mind.  It was ok to transition out of motherhood and into personhood for the seven hours that my children would be at school.  To put it bluntly, I should have left and let go of the outside pressure from the do it all perfection driven mothers, and my own self inflicted pressure to be everything to everybody.  I should have just left all that at the front door of the kindergarten room that year. I didn’t. 

I have learned a valuable lesson. I have learned my family needs a sane mom, a happy mom, and a mom who knows the value of taking care of herself. I have learned that just because I ‘can’, doesn't mean I ‘should.’  I have learned that it’s vital to tell that mother, who for the first time this fall may be finding herself with ‘all that time’ during the school day, that it’s ok to jump out of the race, or to not even enter. I will tell her it’s ok to spend the time she has alone now to recharge her well drained batteries, to reflect and think about how and what she really wants to spend those seven precious hours a day doing.  She finally has options. Delicious and liberating options. I want her to choose those options wisely, and feel no guilt in saying “No,” and instead take special care of herself for once, pampering and being gentle with her body, mind, and spirit. Because in the end, no amount of school or community martyr-ish volunteerism can make her a better or more perfect mom. Only putting herself first can do that. 

See Ya Later "Sanctimommies!"

So I learned a new word this week. It is ‘sanctimommy.’ It is defined as a mom who in every way, shape, or form is raising their kids totally right, and you are raising yours totally wrong, and sanctimommies are sure as hell going to tell you all about how wrong you are doing it, and how right they are doing it. Odd they would have enough time to troll the internet and mom shame the day away, seeing as how they are at their kids beck and call 24/7, but I digress.  Basically they just plain suck. In all ways and forms of the word suck, because  sometimes that is the only  word perfect enough to describe a-holes, They. Just. Suck.  Especially the sanctimommies who don’t actually know you, yet personally attack you, they are SUCK foam on top of a SUCK drink. Give idiots a keyboard and an internet connection and watch the suckfest commence. I am not ignorant, I mean, I know there are people that will not agree with what I write, duh. I don’t agree with lots of things I read. But I also don’t flip the hell out and tip tap away my anger, blasting away about it to a total stranger.  And truly, I am a total stranger to my readers. You are not my next door neighbor, I don’t see you on the playground or at the grocery store. You only see a few paragraphs of me. And I really am a lot more that a few paragraphs. Yes, I know I can expect critics, and if I write and put myself out there, I will be criticized. I guess I am getting more and more ok with that. Oh, almost forget, here is a big thank you to the sanctimommy  who emailed me to remind me that I can and will be criticized. No really, thanks again for reminding me people suck. 

The suckiest of the suck are the ones with no sense of humor. I am a humor writer. Well, I write about a lot of things (books, running) but for the most part, I live an insanely hilarious life and I write about it.  What happens in a household of four boys makes for some of the most epic writing material on the planet. And because I literally can’t believe some of the days I have, I  HAVE to write them down. You can’t make this stuff up. I also write them down in kind of a revenge journal, so l can remember the days from hell, and act upon them at a future date. Like how when my sons get their first apartment, I will be coming over and taking a shit on the carpet, then  I will draw a personal portrait of myself in black sharpie on the wall, and finally I will throw the dinner they planned, shopped for, and prepared with love - yea, I will totally be throwing it against the wall, and instead I will demand ice cream and goldfish. I. Cannot. Wait.

Anyway, I am not a child psychologist, or a child development expert, or a parenting expert. I don’t follow a certain method of parenting. I may have when I only had two kids under age three, and they had a limited vocabulary (BTW, the teenage years=surprisingly articulate talking back) but now I would call my parenting method the “whatever gets us through the day”  method. I’m guessing you can relate, since you are here reading this, you are fans of the blog, and I think I know what kind of audience you are. You all need a laugh as much as I do. You need someone to say out loud what you are feeling inside.  You have days where you find yourself looking around your house, looking at your kids and your spouse and your bills and your burnt cookies, and you are thinking, “ Holy F-ing shit this is N-U-T-S nuts.  I can’t be the only one going through this.”  I am here to tell you, you most certainly are not the only one. Trust me.

Now back to the sanctimommies. Yes,  they exist, bless there little perfection producing hearts. I often wonder if there is any laughter in their homes.  Do they ever just bust out a good old fashioned “WHAT THE FUCK am I doing? “  Or a “I cannot do this shit anymore?”  because if they don’t,  I want to know what medication they are taking, and how much they pay their au pair. Because if you can calmly, and perfectly handle all your offspring 7 days a week, 24 hours a day, well, we can’t  be friends. Period. I need people who, like me, do it wrong all the time.  Luckily, as years go by,  I am trying to no longer look outside of my home for validation. Nope.  Not gonna go there anymore, and it’s been a long time coming. I think it only comes with age. Truly. If you are in your 20s and you have figured this out already, good job, because  you have half the battle down already.  For me, I am grateful as these years pass by, because I think it keeps making me a better mother, and a much better friend. Even if your type of parenting is totally the opposite of me, I don’t judge, condescend, or tell you that you are doing it wrong. I know you are doing what is right for YOUR family, and maybe you too are just trying  to get though the day. 

Motherhood competitions are lonely places. Motherhood journeys, which are made up of friends who ‘get you’ even if they don’t mother like you, are wonderful places. And on your journey,  don’t forget to opt out of the race for the perfect kid, the perfect home, the perfect marriage, and  that irrational and unreachable motherhood perfection finish line spurned on by peers, media, and child rearing theories. Instead, learn to laugh and just do it your way, not her way or the book’s way, or the ‘supposed to do it’ way. Just do it your way. And don’t forget to lighten up on the mom journey, and pick up a few weary travelers along the way, because we all need each other in this race. Plus, it’s gonna be real hoot  when we whiz by the sanctimommies, and get to the finish line before them, and trust me, we will, and we will still be standing tall, like badass superhero moms.  Because with genuine support and laughter, nothing can slow you down on your motherhood journey. Rather, it can only build you up, help you fly. And that is the kind of sanctimommy I want to be. The superhero kind. Cape anyone?

5 Ways I Will Be A Different School Mom This Year

Back to school time is upon us, and if you are like me, this time of year feels a little like January, in that we are making another new start, making promises and resolutions to do this school year better than last. Every year I make the same ones, like we will always be on time for school, I will not lose any permission slips, I will pack lunches the night before. But this fall I am adding a few new ones, and thanks to some age and experience on my back, these I am confidant I will be able to keep.

5 Ways I will be a different school mom this year

1. I will say “No"

I have had a child in elementary, middle, or high school for 12 straight years now. I am no longer the new, eager, kindergarten mom ready and willing to throw my hand in the air to volunteer and be the homeroom parent contact, or the PTA president. That ship has long sailed sister. I have since found my people among the 40+ year old school parents. We are the ones all hiding over in the corner slouched over, head down, simply too burnt out to be super involved anymore. We are the been there done that school moms, and we are looking for a few good 29 year olds to take over. Please. Take over. Because we have long since abandoned harboring any guilt  over simply saying the word “No.” And truthfully, we don’t care what you all think about us anymore- “Why doesn't she help out? She is so uninvolved in her kid’s education!”  Hey cute little baby wearing mom born in 1985, I just want to say two things; I am sorry you missed the 80s, and saying “No” is the new 30, and when you hit 40 you too will get bloody brilliant at it.  So you and your ‘Gossip Girls’ go ahead and throw all the class parties this year. We’re all going to yoga.

2. I will let my kids manage the morning routine all by themselves.

I know, I know, but I gotta try it.  I am keenly aware that I have some very big unrealistic morning dreams here. I am also 00% certain that without my screaming morning voice, and without my school stuff packing, crap organizing, double checking, and pretty much total body maneuvering of all the small humans here, nobody in this house would move a muscle before 10 a.m. But I am going to try, really TRY to stop the morning madness that has turned me into a resentful raving lunatic. This is going to require me keeping my mouth closed  (duct tape please) and trusting that my kids CAN and WILL step up to the plate, and are truly capable and mature enough to wake up, feed themselves, and get their bodies and all their stuff inside the school mode of transportation and ready to go. Every. Single. Day. And all this is going to happen without my head turning around 360 degrees, without undue strain on my vocal cords, and without tears being shed from any and all iof the nhabitants of this house. We can do this kids. We totally can.  At least until Christmas. Maybe Halloween?

3. I will let my high school kids plan for THEIR future, not the one I wanted them to have.

When my oldest started high school 2 years ago, I had all these plans in my head about what classes he should take, what ‘track’ he should be on, and what college he should go to. I never asked him his opinion. I thought I knew better. Turns out, I have raised him well enough that he is perfectly capable of both discovering and acting on what is beginning to inspire him, not what I thought would inspire him. So he won’t be in AP Calculus, or Engineering Honor Society by his senior year. Guess what? Lately, he thinks he wants to be a teacher. And his favorite subject? English. Turns out he is not a math prodigy, and he is only vaguely interested in science, but he reads more fiction that your average adult, and that kid’s personal podcast library is both intellectually awesome and boyishly hilarious. Look, I’m smart enough to know his career choices and subject interests will change ten  fold in the next five years, but from now on those choices will be HIS, not MINE, because in two years, I will not be sitting there with his college advisor checking boxes on class selections. Time to start letting go now. Gasp. 

4. I will not help do science projects, history fair displays, dioramas, book reports, and/or projects that are assigned to my kids,not assigned to ME.

Who else out there can spot a totally parent made science fair entry from a mile away? Hey mini Bill Nye, who is trying to pass off his precisely scaled and intricately engineered replica of a pool’s solar heating pump as his own work, doesn’t your dad own a solar heating company?  Luckily, I am already pretty good at the no help thing,  because four kids does this to you naturally. I have zero time or energy left for you to pull the, “Moooooooom… project is due tomorrow!” Because this mama doesn't say “How high?” when you say “Jump.” She says, “Well it appears dear one that you are totally screwed. Good night.” Even when the last kid guilt kicks in, and my crafty instincts really want me to pull an all-nighter and personally Pinterest the hell out of that poster board, I will stand tough. Better to snag a great big F in the fifth grade and learn your lesson, rather than let the crap hit the fan as a high school junior, when your every move is being watched by a college admissions officer. 

5. I will enjoy my youngest child’s elementary years

Recall #1. Yes, I am the ‘over it’ school mom, but I need to not let my youngest child know or experience that. In so, so many ways, kid #4 gets the shaft big time. As in, his baby photo book doest not exist, he is the king of hand me downs, and every developmental milestone is no longer ushered in with a parade, but rather a weak, “Oh good. I remember when your brother first did that.”  I don’t want his early school years to be a string of whiny and complaining “not agains” from his mom. I am in the homestretch, and as much as I really want to put the pedal to the metal and get him to the finish line, I need to slow down my race, both for him and myself. He is entitled and deserving of the same school enthusiasm from me that his oldest brother got. Weary that I may be, I need to be just as excited for 2nd grade ‘dress up like a saint day’  as  I was the first three times. (Thank God I saved the costume. That thing is already boxed and ready to go. You’re gonna be St. Patrick whether you like it or not.) So I am going to show up utterly giddy, video camera in hand, for the school Christmas play I have seen three times already, and the science museum field trip I know by heart, and I help you hand make 30 Valentines for your classmates, just like I have been doing for the last decade, without bellyaching. I vow to make his firsts again be my firsts. Because who knows, maybe I did save the best school mom experiences for the last.