Archive for November, 2009

October is Over, Thanksgiving is Here…

Yang Mommy

…I can smell turkey and stuffing so near!

Growing up in a small family, with both parents from Europe, we didn’t really “celebrate” Thanksgiving like most American families. Sure, we watched Santa arrive in the parade and had some turkey for dinner but that was about it for the traditional activities. No large feasts, no touch football in the back yard, no days spent in the kitchen in preparation. Some of my friends thought I was missing out on the big day and I agreed with them. I wanted the big family table, full of laughter and good cheer, with plates piled high with good food–I wanted the quintessential Hallmark holiday.

Yet looking back on my childhood, I realize that although we didn’t have the Hallmark holiday, we really did have a great day, year after year. Because my parents didn’t stress out in the kitchen and because we took the day easily, we spent the day as tight knit close family. Some years we’d all take long walks in the woods, looking for animal tracks. Other years we’d simply go feed the ducks at the local pond, or if we had a white Thanksgiving, we’d definitely go sledding. Those were wonderful Thanksgiving days.

Nowadays, since marrying  into a larger family & having my own little one, our Thanksgivings have become much larger and grander, and more Norman Rockwellish. Add to the fact that we invite family friends over to dinner too and we end up with a 25 lb+ organic turkey on the table with slim chances of leftovers for the weekend! (I admit, my husband and I have on occasion bought our own little turkey breast to have “leftovers” with–I have to have my turkey and cranberry sauce sandwich on Black Friday!) This week is being spent in preparation for Thursday’s big day, with home-made food being whipped up hither and yon. Stress in the kitchen? You bet ya. Fun in the kitchen? Absolutely! Trying to make it all work whilst a toddler runs around pretending to be a turkey–hilarious!

So as I march forth into the kitchen today and well on into the night, and after I’ve trudged through the supermarket crowds, I’ll be reminiscing about my childhood Thanksgivings and looking forward to my grown-up day of feasting (and in the back of my mind, making sure I also have food my tot will eat, LOL!). And I’ll definitely make sure to create  my own special family memories with my little girl and husband on this day of thanks.

…And when it is over and grace has been said, it won’t be the turkey but me stuffed instead!

YIN:

Thanksgiving is one of my favorite holidays. I’m not quite sure why. I’m not a really big eater. And although I like to cook (when I have time) and read magazines such as Saveur, I’m not a gourmand. I think I really like Thanksgiving because it’s the time of year when you can feel like a kid again and there’s a change in the weather that says “It’s that’s time of year!!”.

Working in retail for the past several years has really changed my Thanksgiving. No more relaxing and do a few things a few days ahead. No completely cleaning out the fridge and scrubbing down the kitchen. No prepping the night before and leisurely going into the day. I’m too busy making sure everyone else has what they need for the holidays.

But even though I’m bone tired after working close to 35 hours in a 3 day span before Thanksgiving, I cooked a full meal this year. The only thing I didn’t make were the mashed potatoes which were pre-made. I brined and cooked a turkey, made some honey carrots, made easy yeast rolls, and for the first time even made a gravy that was tasty and not lumpy (finally!). I did forget the stuffing, but no worries.

So if I was so tired why do all that? Because I wanted my daughter to experience Thanksgiving with her parents. She was only 5 months old last Thanksgiving and we went to my brother’s to eat. This year I made the decision early that we weren’t going to family’s house to have dinner. Not because we don’t like our family – but because my work life was so crazy in the days prior and my husband had to work Thanksgiving morning. So rather than rush around and be cranky and not enjoy the day we had dinner at home and then afterwards went to see my family and had drinks and dessert with them.

I felt guilty at first because my parents were down for the week. However I realized that this was the best thing for my “new” family and my “old” family would enjoy me more if I was relaxed. After yesterday I no longer feel guilty but I feel good because we had the best of both worlds. I got to wake up, have a mimosa and watch the Macy’s parade with my daughter. Then I started cooking, my husband came home and we ate around 3:30pm. After my daughter’s bath (have you seen a 17 month old go at the cranberry sauce?) we headed over and hung out for a few hours with my family. My husband even went to the bar at the timeshare with my dad and they had a couple of beers and some quality time.

So this holiday season, don’t feel pressured to do whatever you don’t want to. You’ll get resentful and it won’t be any fun. Do what is best for your family and if it’s a little different, so what? The idea isn’t to be like Norman Rockwell’s vision. That’s no offense to Yang Mommy and her family – they’re not trying to be like Norman Rockwell’s vision. I think they ARE Rockwell’s vision. They’re a big, close family who loves spending a lot of time together. That’s who they are and they don’t try to be different. But if your family isn’t like that don’t try to fit into a mold that you’re not. Being yourself will make everyone more comfortable and you’ll have a much better holiday season. Enjoy!

Are Kids Menus Really Kid Friendly?

Yang Mommy

Over this past summer, my daughter and I ate out quite a lot. We were either on the go hither and yon, or on vacation, or simply wanted to get out and enjoy a beautiful afternoon outdoors. So our adventures took us to various eateries, from sandwich shops to nice restaurants. Sounds fun, doesn’t it? Well for the most part it was, and is, fun to eat out with her. But as a toddler, she still has those pesky, picky, toddler taste buds.

Experience has now taught me to always, always bring some food I know my daughter will like and that’s good for her. Regardless of the stares and looks the restaurant staff may give me, I will continue to whip out a banana or mini-sandwich for her while kindly asking the wait staff for extra napkins.  The  number one reason I bring food along is not because she’s such a picky eater, which she isn’t really (although she has her moments), but because I’m a picky mom.

It seems the standards on kids menus in America today are: Mac n’ Cheese, Chicken Fingers, Sliders or Hot Dog and fatty sides like fries or chips. In and of themselves, these menu items are not all that bad for occasional treats; my girl loves her homemade mac n’ cheese.  And I’m all for letting her try items off my plate. But what gets me is that the flavoring of these items is often cooked to adult taste bud standards, not little children. Yes, trying new flavors is important, and fun. But if it burns my epicurean tongue, well then…

Take for instance the time we ordered off the kids menu some mashed potatoes. Well the potatoes were the same potatoes they serve to adults, including the garlicky seasoning which was even strong for me, who loves garlic, let alone a 1 1/2 yr old. Then there was the time we ordered her chicken fingers from another establishment and the batter was spiced, greasy and hardly any chicken underneath.  And lest I forget, on vacation we ordered her scrambled eggs for breakfast, another dish she loves at home. I had to protest when it came to our table, not only for the plate being too hot to touch, but also with a dollop of butter still melting on them! Belly ache, anyone?

These days, we still bring food she’ll like with us, but we tend to avoid the so-called kids menu. Rather, we’ll order her a side of fruit or some salad, or even let her pig-out on some fresh bread. From our encounters, we’ve found on average that the general seasoning is just not made in mind for tender palates, nor are the portions, let alone the nutritional value in most menu items.  I guess the same can be said for many adult menu items, can’t they!

So with that in mind, I’ll have to make sure that at this year’s Thanksgiving table, there’s some tot-friendly food items to go  along with the beloved standards.

The Ramifications of Mommy Burnout

YIN:

A few weeks ago Oprah had an episode on about moms who drive drunk with their kids in the car. It was a pretty tragic show and on a topic that strangely enough, my own mother and I had discussed in the past month prior to the show because it was something we’d seen repeatedly on the news.

If you start noticing lately there are have been a rash of mothers caught driving drunk, getting into devastating car crashes while drunk, or falling asleep at the wheel drunk – all with their children and possibly other people’s children in the car with them. Pretty much in my mind I was thinking “what in the world is going on to make all these women drink in the middle of the day and get in the car with their children.” And then it came to me – it has to be burnout.

Oprah had a statistic on her show that DUIs for women have gone up 30% in the past 10 years or so. That’s astonishing. So what has happened since the turn of the century to women? The only thing that pops in my head is that as women, mothers and caretakers we’re always trying to do more and trying to do it better. The result of going, going, going is burnout. Burnout, according to Dictionary.com, is “fatigue, frustration or apathy resulting from prolonged stress, overwork, or intense activity.” And what a lot of people do to relieve stress is to drink. Which feels good so we continue to do it. And it felt good last night so why not this morning? And I can handle my drinking so why not have one at breakfast to take the edge off before I drive the kids to school?

It’s a scary scenario, isn’t it? But one that seems quite easy for someone who is cracking under pressure to fall under. So what do we do? How do we as women help ourselves and help each other deal with the expectations that are thrown at us daily from all angles?

For me I am trying to take things in stride and not work myself to death. This time of year is very busy at my job and I recently realized that I was working a lot of overtime and not knowing it until I looked at my paycheck. Sure the extra money is great but for me it’s not worth the stress. So I’m going to make a pact with myself to try to leave on time and not go in on my days off.

Something else I’ve done is to not always reach for a drink to relax. I’m not an alcoholic but I do enjoy the taste of alcohol and the socialization that goes along with drinking. I can see how the relaxation of drinking could lull you into feeling good and putting your mind in another place. I actually see it more now that I am a mother than before (probably because my stress has grown extraordinarily since I became a mom). So now I’ll have a cup of tea. Or I’ll turn on a really funny sitcom to get my mind off of my troubles (Modern Family, The Middle and The New Adventures of Old Christine are my favorites this season). It works and now when I have a beer or a glass of wine its extra special.

I’ve also learned to get out without my child. Now that’s she’s a little older it’s a little easier to ask a friend to watch her for a few hours so we can get out once in a while. What to do if you can’t get out without your child or you don’t have anyone to watch them? Maybe go to the park or the beach or a kid’s museum. Somewhere the kids can run around and get their energy out and you don’t have to run around after them the entire time. I tried this one last weekend – it works pretty good. And they go down for a nap when they get home (an extra plus).

I’m not sure what we can do for each other as friends except listen and be aware of warning signs of burnout from each other. And it’s not always drinking that happens because we’re at the end of our rope. It could be recreational drugs, verbal or physical abuse or many other things. I think the main thing we as moms need to do is to learn how to take care of ourselves so that we can take care of the people that we love. So simple, yet so hard – don’t you think?

Dumping Friends Online–A Lesson Not to Teach

YANG

Has this ever happened to you? You log on to Facebook or My Space to see that your Friends list has suddenly decreased. Since FB doesn’t tell you who has un-friended you (or tell others when you un-friend them), it can take some guess work to figure out who dumped you and more to the point, why. A boyfriend? An ex-love? A long time girlfriend? Even a family member?

Well much to my amazement this morning, I found out that a long-time friend of mine (we were once best friends back in the college days) decided to un-friend me without even a so much as a “I’m upset with you because of A, B, C.” What hurts the most is that she’s obviously upset with me about something but doesn’t care enough about me or the friendship to come to the table with what’s bothering her. Rather, she cuts ties with me via the Internet. I’m dumbfounded. (I’m not alone either–see this article: http://edition.cnn.com/2009/LIVING/personal/06/04/tf.friendship.breakup/index.html)

This whole sad story of mine got me thinking though. What kind of lessons and values are we teaching children today when we act like this? My daughters is far too young for life lessons on friendship (she’s a toddler), but future Yang Mommy wonders what the world will be like when her daughter is a tween and if dumping friends on-line without even discussing any issues at hand will be considered OK. I surely hope not. Because to me, it’s like putting a child in time-out without telling them why, and then not giving them a chance to correct themself. Perhaps I did something that was a “fatal friend error” but how will I ever know if I’m not told what I did wrong?

What I’ll do now is up in the air. I guess it all depends on how much this friend means (or meant) to me, and if I want to continue a relationship with someone who values our friendship in this manner. I do know that I’ll have a story to tell my girl when she’s older and going through her own trials and tribulations of friendship. My choices today may not be what she will choose to follow tomorrow, but hopefully she will learn something from my tale–that you shouldn’t just cut links with a friend without at least telling them why.