I’ll have my Shamrock Shake and drink it, too

I love Shamrock Shakes.

There. I said it. And you know what? I’m going to own it and put my straw where my mouth is.

To all you calorie-counting crazies and health-conscious foodies using spinach and kale in place of all the delicious mystery ingredients (I hear there are many) that make a Shamrock Shake a Shamrock Shake — You can all look the other way when I roll into McDonald’s and state with dignity, “I’ll have one Shamrock Shake please.”

Dignity you say?

Yes, dignity. Ain’t no shame or guilt here.

And when the cashier asks if I would like whipped cream?

Why yes, indeed I would.

St. Patrick’s Day comes but once a year, and depriving myself of a green-dyed minty milkshake is like not eating candy corn at Halloween. It’s like not eating turkey at Thanksgiving. It’s like not eating candy canes at Christmas time. It’s like not eating a box of chocolates on Valentine’s Day. It’s like not eating jelly beans on Easter. It’s like not eating a whipped dessert with berries that looks like an American flag on Independence Day.

Blimey!

Obviously I base my seasonal celebrations on food, and you can bet I’m going to keep with tradition as I slurp up a Shamrock Shake. The Shamrock Shake originated at McDonald’s in 1970 and has withstood the test of time through continued popularity. Obviously, I am not alone in my love for this seasonal shake that marks an annual celebration and tradition.

Cheers to the Irish.

American salute to the Irish.

Naysayers, I beg you, please stop trying to ruin the joy of drinking a Shamrock Shake for the rest of us. Please take your “This is why you shouldn’t drink a Shamrock Shake” articles and verbiage on all the millions of chemical-filled ingredients that encompass a shake and add up to the 47,000 odd calories and 9,000 grams of sugar elsewhere.

There are some things that aren’t meant for open discussion or change of popular opinion. This is one of them.

Happy St. Patrick’s Day! May you celebrate the Irish with shamrocks and green.

Frozen in time

I finally thew away an acorn squash that had been sitting in the fruit bowl on my kitchen counter since last September. Much like myself right now, due to the current winter weather conditions, it had become frozen in time. Time, the ever elusive place.

Having never cooked an acorn squash before, I bought one at a local pumpkin patch with high hopes of trying to replicate a yummy recipe that an acquaintance had made. For whatever reason, I couldn’t seem to muster up the motivation or courage to cook a new recipe. So it sat there through the whole fall season and into winter like an unknown intruder trying to find its place.

At some point, I must have realized I was not going to cook it, but I also could not throw it away. That would be a waste, despite its growing discoloration and slow deterioration into a paltry excuse for a gourd.

There it sat.

The butternut squashes came rolling in and out of my kitchen all season. I baked them in stride or used them in soups like years prior. Their warm goodness found ways into my belly, but that acorn squash remained dormant.

Which leads me to my current mentality: Dormant.

Since moving to Pennsylvania last summer, I energetically raked my way through mountains of fall leaves and I am currently shoveling, though now half-heartedly, my way through piles winter snow. I knew winter in the north was way more intense than winter in Virginia. I tried to prepare by purposefully making a pact with myself to embrace the bluster of the season through the last day of February, at which point I could slowly allow myself to long for warmer weather and buds on the trees. I braced myself. And then, I relaxed into a sled with my kids and threw some snow up in the air. The powdery white stuff sprinkled all around us with festive buoyancy.

Somehow about a week or so ago, my mentality about “embracing” the winter weather until March 1 got swept away by a snow squall. Much like the extreme cold temps of late – I am talking below zero at night for days on end – I am literally frozen. And not in an Ice-Princess-Elsa-I-am-going-to-conquer-my-powers-and-take-back-my-kingdom-in-green-fashion kind of way. More like, frozen in time with no desire to do much of anything, except survive this wicked season and long for spring.

I need sunshine!

I need park play dates!

I need daffodils!

And for the love of God, I need to throw away that acorn squash.

So I did.

As if I thought that would somehow keep the seasons moving along, I slam-dunked that sucker back to where it came from. Somehow in doing so, it gave me the motivation to try to surge some momentum out of hibernation.

The snow and ice and negative temperatures have remained since Acorn Squash Purge Day, but somewhere underneath I know there is a blade of green grass. March 1st is on the horizon and still seems like a (somewhat) safe time to start washing and storing scarves and long underwear. Although March can sometimes lash out in late-winter brutality, at least its arrival means the start of spring.

Spring. Less than four weeks away.

Even though I still feel somewhat trapped in the doldrums of my dormant self, the birds will eventually start chirping again, right? Spring temperatures will arrive and seem that much toastier having endured the wretched winter, right? I imagine that going through such an extreme seasonal shift must feel like being frozen in time, too. Although the ever-ellusive this time I will be at the height my jump on a big Trampoline basking in all the glory that comes with triumph over someone such as Jack Frost.

I’ll thaw to that thought.

I do not feel any waves of heat just yet, quite the contrary with no break in the weather forecasted, but at least when hubby arrives home from work it is, in a literal sense, still light outside. The days are getting longer, and I am gripping my frozen fingers around that ray of spring hope.

Until then, I am more than longing to escape outside and breathe fresh air without seeing a cloud of condensation escape from  my mouth due to the bitter cold air. I have a feeling that after filling my lungs with warm air, a magnificent exhale of gratitude for the renewal that comes with spring will exude energy. Just like our Creator intended. Here comes Peter Cottontail.

And then I bet, before I know it, life will roll right  along into summer like a beach ball floating effortlessly on water. My family and I will celebrate our one-year anniversary of living in our new home, and we’ll be all the wiser for what is to come as more seasons cycle ahead.

Indeed, the seasonal shifts render purpose: “To every thing there is a season, and a time to every purpose under the heaven.”

Now go read Ecclesiastes 3:1. After you finish, put Turn, Turn, Turn by The Byrds on repeat and have yourself a cup of cheer. Chirp, chirp.

Ever the (dormant) optimist I am always eager for what lies ahead. Preferably green meadows and sun glasses. Maybe next fall I’ll give that acorn squash recipe another try, but for now I am dreaming of other kinds of produce with seeds – strawberries would be nice. I speak not of the frozen kind.

Time Marches on.

Kids will be kids?

My day started off uneventful. I woke up with the kids and fed them oatmeal. Then we got  dressed and headed out the door.

My friend – let’s call her Shawanda – and I have an informal babysitting agreement. During the week either she will drop off her two girls at my house for a few hours, or I will drop off Lance and Vivian at her house for a few hours. It’s a great little exchange and way for each of us to pursue some individual interests on uninterrupted time. Plus, our kids love playing together.

Today was my day so I dropped off my kids at her house and went on my way. I decided to start my free time by running a few miles on the treadmill. Afterward, I dipped my head into some writing documents.

All was going according to plan. When I finished writing I grabbed a quick shower and was on my way back out the door to retrieve the kids.

That’s when things got a little dicey.

I noticed a missed call from Shawanda – let’s now call her Shawanda Dangerous – as I was heading for the car. Then a text came in that read, “Hey friend. Vivi locked herself on my bedroom… She’s fine! I just may need your muscle to he the door open”

What?! On my bedroom?! Your muscle to he the door open?!

But I got the point: My baby was locked up and Shawanda Dangerous was frazzled.

Mind you, Vivian is two years old.

Before I go any further, I must note that I adore Shawanda Dangerous. We are stay-at-home-Mom friends. We are each others sanity at times and have a lot in common both as Moms and as young women in our thirties.

But this here was a situation!

Since I was already headed for the car the only thing I could do was drive over there and try to pick the lock and break in through the window with her.

When I got there I tried to pick the lock with a paper clip… a bobby pin… then a Phillips head screw driver… then various keys… then a nail… but all to no avail. At first I didn’t even want Vivian to know I was there because she wasn’t upset and we could hear or see her happily playing through the door and window.

The other kids had dragged a bunch of toys in the bedroom before Vivian got caged, which was keeping her busy. We, umm, think the older kids might have had something to do with her current situation, but don’t have any concrete proof that they were the ones who locked the door before it got closed. Kids will be kids?

Somehow I remained calm as I went outside to try to pry the window that Shawanda Dangerous couldn’t get open. Even though one window was not locked, it is eight degrees here today and the window was probably frozen shut.

Once at the window, Vivian immediately saw me, and wandered over.

She said, “Hi Mommy. I need out,” in about as sweet of a voice as you can get. I smiled and told her I knew and that I would get her out. On the inside though, I worried that now she would really want to get out and become frustrated by the obvious barriers.

But I also knew if I remained calm that she would remain calm. It’s kind of like when you are on an airplane and they tell you to secure your own oxygen mask before helping others. In my mind, I knew if I didn’t calm my own nerves she would lose it and then I would lose it and be of no help to either of us.

I put on my oxygen mask.

But the window wouldn’t budge.

I went back inside, and I started singing songs and making up little games with her through the door. Truly, she was fine… but how in the hell were we going to get her out?! I felt a rush of panic wash over my insides, but I brushed it aside.

Shawanda Dangerous started calling Mr. Shawanda. I started calling Jan. Eventually Jan showed up on the scene, and I breathed a sigh of relief certain that he could get the window open or pick the lock.

Nope. The bedroom was impenetrable.

Finally Shawanda Dangerous couldn’t take it anymore. She took matters into her own hands and called a locksmith. At this point, I was playing Where is Thumpkin? underneath the door and jamming my fingers through the crack to sing to each other and then “run and hide.”

Vivian ate it up.

Then we served her Ritz crackers and cheese through the crack underneath the door. She ate that up, too.

This whole time, the other kids were still involved and had turned the situation into a game of “entertain and rescue Vivian.” Lance and the little Shawandas passed toys back and forth with her and talked to her.

Between Shawanda Dangerous and I, one of us could either see Vivian from the window, or see her toes and fingers under the door. We held onto that small piece of positivity for calmness, which helped to a point. To no avail, even though I was convinced I could talk Vivian through turning the lock, she wasn’t interested.

Shawanda Dangerous got nervous again and was frantically running around picking up toys to calm her nerves. I was blogging in my head and taking pictures to calm mine. (We all have our coping mechanisms, yes?)

Only a few times during the whole debacle did Vivian get even remotely peeved and increase the intensity of her, “I need out,” requests. We resorted to gummy bears. I discussed their colors with her, we counted them, passed them back and forth, and we made up stories. Yes, I thought to myself, let’s make this potentially hazardous situation educational!

Then I found a small toy dog and slid him under the door. We sang How much is that doggie in the window? more times than I’d ever like to sing again. Vivian did the “Arff Arff’s” with such gusto that I couldn’t help but admire her attitude. Locked up and alone, her participation through a closed-door was nothing less than stellar.

Eventually, I started to get a little weary waiting for the locksmith. Shawanda Dangerous offered to slide her cell phone, with Daniel Tiger cued up, under the door to Vivian, but I declined since Vivian wasn’t crying. It might be a good last resort if she gets upset, I thought to myself. Never eat all the cookies in the cookie jar right away I reasoned in my head.

By now the other children were parked in front of the TV since their interests in the situation eventually wained . Well, except for Lance who came over, but only to pester for gummy bears and not out of concern for his sister in the least.

We waited.

The kids, including Vivian’s, energy levels all lowered as nap time drew near. Then it was quiet in the bedroom. I kept trying to talk to Vivian, but I knew she wasn’t right at the door anymore. Shawanda Dangerous went out to the window to have a look-see and saw her near the nightstand laying half on the bed. Poor girl was probably ready for a nap!

Eventually the locksmith came, and one hour and 40 minutes later Vivian was rescued from the bedroom. One hour and 40 minutes and not one tear, ladies and gentleman.

Whew.

When the door finally opened, there was Vivian. Her cute, happy and tired looking little face appeared with a smile. There was a pile of random small toys on the floor, lot’s of crumbs, and the obvious smell of a diaper that needed changing, but we celebrated.

We cheered and we hugged.

The Mommies cracked a Friday afternoon beer and toasted to the adventures of Motherhood.  (And yes, I will still trust my friend with my kids again).

In fact, I think I’ll go back to calling her just Shawanda. Or maybe Shawanda Situation.

***

A few pictures to highlight the “situation” of the day…

Even the locksmith had to go through a few different set of tools and tricks to finally get the door to open. Ultimately, Shawanda Dangerous and Mr. Shawonda ended up with a new lock-less door knob.

Asshole door knob.

Asshole door knob.                                      Nice locksmith though!

Shawanda selecting beers post-rescue.

Shawanda selecting beers post-rescue.

The only mischief Vivian got into. Tissue anyone?

The only mischief Vivian got into.                 Tissue anyone?

And the trooper of the day award goes to…

What the heck took you so long?

 

Holes in the knees of my jeans

A little over three years ago I blogged about a pair of Lucky jeans I bought in Los Angeles while shopping. I loved those jeans from the first time I pulled them up over my hips. Heck, I still covet them – even despite the giant hole in the left knee.

You see, I wrote a sweet little piece about my jean buying history in that former blog post. From brands to prices to fits to quoting Zak Brown Band about, “A pair of jeans that fit just right,” my point was: I love a good fitting pair of jeans.

Still do.

Today, here I sit, with holes in the knees of my jeans.

And not because I bought them that way or am trying to make a ’90’s fashion statement. The holes are there from the demands of my labor.

Cue Moms of the world with little children.

You understand what I am talking about, right ladies?

Instead of designer jeans, we have what I like to call a rotation of “play jeans.” Kind of like play clothes, but for Moms who crawl around on the floor all day playing (and picking up toys and cleaning up messes).

Stay-at-home Moms without a housekeeper have it worse. We have to crawl around on the floor with our kids all day, and then while they nap scurry around and clean floors on our hands and knees to keep house.

I’m not asking for a Cinderella award here, but I am pondering the holes in the knees of my jeans tonight. And though I have such love for the holes (and the children who caused them) in practically all of my pants, I’d really just like to wonder for a moment about what it’s like to not have holes in the knees of my jeans.

Does nice jewelry come with them? A wrinkle free face? Ironed shirt? Sexy thong? A sleek hair style?

You tell me.

You  may also enjoy reading : A pair of jeans that fit just right

Glühwein: My answer to warmth

I have been cold all day.

Today has been one of those days where I haven’t been able to get warm. The grips of my pesky chill probably stemmed from an early morning shower followed by the all-too-regular decision to let my hair air-dry due to Mama duties pulling me out of the warm, steamy bathroom. As thick as my hair is, air drying is an all day process and definitely one of the culprits of my shivers. That and, oh yeah, it’s wintertime and there is snow on the ground and below freezing temperatures daily might have something to do with it, too.

Tonight’s solution?

Hot soup, oven-baked crusty rolls, and warm Glühwein (or mulled wine for the non-speaking German readers). My husband and I had a leftover bottle of Glühwein, unopened, that we bought before Christmas. Instead of saving it for the next holiday season we broke into it tonight. I even pulled out the two ceramic mugs I smuggled back across the Atlantic from the Dresdner Striezelmarkt in 2008 as mementos from my trip.

At first sip tonight, I time traveled back to that day. I was wide-eyed and experiencing my first Christmas market in Germany. I was meeting my now in-laws for the first time and trying to take in the culture of an unexplored, to me, country. What I remember most was the smell of the spices as I brought the steamy mug to my lips. The cinnamon, cloves, and citrus all blended together with red wine delivered an aromatic delight to my brain.

When my father-in-law told me I could keep two mugs if he didn’t return them for deposit (one Euro each), I jumped at his sweet and simple gesture to treat me and help make the ceramic mugs mine. What souvenirs at the time and ones I am certainly glad he encouraged me to bring home with me. The act of keeping them, something only a tourist would consider, has preserved the memory of my first taste of Glühwein.

IMG_0194

So while Christmas was over a month ago and our decorations stored until next year, I still have my last mug of 2014 holiday Glühwein in hand. That and, okay I confess, one remaining strand of twinkly white lights and two light-up churches to dazzle my spirits on the long, cold nights are just what I need tonight as temperatures dip down to 8 degrees overnight.

Warmth achieved.

And alas, my hair has dried.

Wishing you warmth in a mug this 2015 winter. What smells make you nostalgic?

Back in the saddle… AGAIN

This past Wednesday I wrote my first blog post in months. I titled it Back in the saddle. Ever since then I haven’t been able to get Gene Autry’s song, Back in the saddle again, out of my head. The old cowboy song was first released in 1939 and was later used as the name of Autry’s autobiography.

If it’s not ringing a bell yet, it was also on the Sleepless in Seattle soundtrack in 1993. You know, the scene where Tom Hanks gets the courage to call up a woman after losing his wife. He pumps himself up with a few shoulder stretches before flipping through his Rolodex and making the call on his push button rotary phone.

Still lost?

Here are the first two verses (Autry, 1939):

I’m back in the saddle again
Out where a friend is a friend
Where the longhorn cattle feed
On the lowly jimsonweed
Back in the saddle again

Ridin’ the range once more
Totin’ my old .44
Where you sleep out every night
And the only law is right
Back in the saddle again

If I could change it up a little to what is in my 2015 mind, it would go something like this:

I’m back in the saddle again                                                                                                                                                      Out where a friend is a friend                                                                                                                                                 Where the flowing ideas feed                                                                                                                                                      Back in the saddle again

Ridin’ the energy once more                                                                                                                                                      Totin’ my journals galore                                                                                                                                                            Where you sleep out every night                                                                                                                                               And the only law is right                                                                                                                                                                 Back in the saddle again

The point is, although I’m not totin’ my old .44, I can relate to Autry on a different level. My journals are my weapons (my safety net), and it’s time to pull them out of the gun cabinet (my mind). See? Isn’t this fun?

Oh the power of word play.

This past week has been pretty wild. From writing again to rallying some friends to help along the way to having some really great conversations with friends and to understanding the depths of love of I have for my entire family, inspiration is everywhere to say the least.

Topics galore are within and around me. I read a really good article in the Washington Post about my generation recently. In short, the article discussed how my generation is the last to remember a pre-computer and pre-cell phone world, yet the first to parent a generation who will know nothing else. A Rolodex? “What the hell is that?” they will say. Rotary phone? Huh?

I also have some thoughts about a very real, and now outspoken, topic of my generation: Bullying. Or gas-lighting, which is an older term for a form of mental abuse. Maybe Gene Autry would know this word. Neither here no there, I believe the two words are somewhat interchangeable of a past and present world.

There are also silly and light-hearted stories floating around and dashing through my thoughts. Like the beautiful mess that was Jan and I trying to shovel our driveway and sidewalk after dinner on Wednesday evening. Jan wanted to go out with Lance. Lance didn’t want to go out. I went out. Vivian wanted out. Lance wanted out. Vivian started to cry. Lance came out. Vivian wanted in. Lance got snow in his eyes. Vivian went in. Vivian wanted back out. Vivian wanted in. I yelled at Jan for letting Vivian out a second time. He defended his decision to let her out. I wanted in. Lance wanted to stay out. Jan went out.

At the end of a disastrous night of bundling, unbundling, and puddles of melted snow in our entry way, the driveway and sidewalk got shoveled and both kids fell asleep quickly. Jan and I made up and tried to have a good laugh about the whole debacle.

The best respite? Our generous neighbor used his snow blower all over the neighborhood, including our driveway, this morning after more snow last night. He must have known (or heard yelling and crying) that the former-Virginians across the way needed some serious help.

Amen.

Snow aside, all I know is, I’m back in the saddle again.

Fasten your seat belts and silence your cell phones. Or umm, hold onto your harness and trust your horse, because this Banter Lady is ready to rumble.

Oh geez… now I am channeling Michael Buffer ring side.

(Which has absolutely nothing to do with anything else I have written so far tonight).

Good night, Ladies and Gentlemen.

Back in the saddle

Well friends, after yet another blogging lapse I decided this past week that it is time to get back into the blogging saddle again.

I’ve been doing some major journaling, laying out writing plans and ideas for 2015, mapping out dreams, talking to trusted friends and confidants about my plans, and optimistically creating the framework for my impending future as a writer.

But since all of those lofty goals are simply unrealistic to accomplish in one day and my son is up early from his nap and sitting on my lap begging for involvement, I thought I’d interview him.

Giddy up.

Interview with Lance:

Me: What should I write about today?

Lance: Today? Before rest? Umm, Ice Age: The Meltdown.

Me: What’s your favorite part of that movie?

L: The sea monsters.

Me: What are you thinking about right now?

L: I am thinking about watching Despicable Me. You start with a D, Mommy…

(Now he is trying to tell me how to spell Despicable. Although I think Despicable is a little unrealistic as a first word to spell for a four-year-old, I am glad he is thinking big).

Me: Are you thinking about anything else right now other than watching movies?

L: No, but I do have a surprise for you. Mommy, you’re going to like my surprise.

Me: What is it?

L: It’s a hug.

(He is now hugging me. I love my job).

Me: Aww, thank you. This interview is over now.

L: No it’s not. This interview isn’t over.

(He is still talking. And talking… And talking… Now about wanting to write his name).

I surrender. I’ll let him and include it in my post.

Here it is:

lance

Ok, he’s back on the floor now playing with mini-cars and putting them in and out of the slots of a wall organizer that has obviously not been hung on the wall yet.

(Yeah, still lot’s of picture-hanging decisions going on around here).

This is my life. With all this hugging and distractions, it may take me some time to continue onward in my journey as a writer, but for now, at least I made it to the keyboard today.

As I look out my window right now, I see the snowflakes falling and the snow mounting. One of those aforementioned movies is probably on the horizon for this afternoon.

What can I say?

Living in the northeast = movie extravaganzas on the cold days.

Vivian is still napping.

(I just felt the need to give her a shout-out. Hey Viv!)

My fingers keep typing, and I know I am jumping around right now.

Yep. Jumping fences and hurdles that have been in my way of writing, per se.

Yep. I’m jumping around alright, but it feels good to let my words free-flow after such a long break in blogging. Plus, that’s the thing about writing. It’s soooooooo easy to over think every word. Today I am just galloping along at rapid-fire speeds with a carefree mentality.

Yee-haw!

This just in: Lance knocked over said wall organizer on the floor and before apologizing had the gall to say, “How come this thing isn’t hung on the wall anyway?”

That’s it. Jan and I are hanging that sucker this weekend.

Where was I?

I have no idea.

Do you?

Lance has now moved onto looking through our passports at the pictures and stamps. He just brought mine to me and asked, “Who’s this?”

I said, “That’s me.”

Oh boy.

At this, I am going to sign off and go grow my hair back into beautiful long, blond  locks and carefully apply make-up the way I used to when I had time.

Hope you are well, my faithful readers.

Drop me a comment or get in touch when you get a chance. In other words, please take the reins from me.

I’d love to hear from you!