My Biggest Parenting Secret

Wouldn’t motherhood be so much easier on everyone if we all shared our secrets? Those little pearls of wisdom that make us feel at least we have done one.thing.right today? Good news — I’ve decided to share one of my best go-to parenting tips. You can thank me later.

One of the biggest challenges moms face is getting their kids to eat vegetables. Because, seriously, what kid really gets uber psyched over broccoli? Um, yeah. Not mine.

Neither does my husband. Unless you count corn chips as a vegetable.

So from the time the pediatrician said I could start introducing solid foods to my first kid, I have tried to create the perfect vegetable. That one vitamin-loaded side dish that would ensure my kids would not only ace the SAT and be an incredibly gifted athlete but also solidify my position in the Mom Hall of Fame.

How hard could it be?

Side note: why they call puréed baby food “solid” is beyond me.

So I started buying veggies. I cooked them, puréed them and froze them into cute little cubes in ice cube trays.

Cute, right? And so handy. My mom friends were totally impressed, I’m sure.

It made my husband gag. “Are you really going to feed him THAT?” he asked, already taking sides in the vegetable war I would fight for the next 18 years.

Traitor.

But one by one, those little cubes were thawed, heated and maybe even mixed with other “solid” foods like rice cereal or something else (ricotta and peas, anyone?). I took pride in creating these one-of-a-kind combos, especially when they didn’t immediately come slithering back down my baby’s chin and onto his lap.

And then, finger foods.

Smoothly pureed vegies like carrots, butternut squash and green beans are not finger foods, regardless of what your toddler might like you to believe. So I had to change up my menu and start thinking of vegies that my wee one would actually eat with his fingers, rather than simply using his fingers to throw them over the side of the high chair.

Side note: cats do not like green beans.

We tried lightly steamed green beans, small cubes of roasted butternut squash, peas (that didn’t end well), tiny little broccoli “trees” and small pieces of avocado until we found a winner.

Carrots.

The little dude liked carrots.

And so began an 18-year obsession (mine) with the baby carrot.

You could steam them and cut them small for little ones, or set out a bowl of them at snack time for older eaters. Stumped on what to serve for lunch? A bowl of baby carrots can easily elevate dinosaur chicken nuggets or mac and cheese to healthy lunch status. Playgroup at the park? Grab a plastic container and fill it up with baby carrots. They’re the perfect snack in the car, because unless your kid uses it for a magic marker or spits them out, they aren’t messy. Sure, I still included the always-handy pretzel sticks, goldfish crackers or pieces of string cheese. But the carrots were always there. Like a vitamin A packed BFF.

When my kids went off to elementary school, the carrots trudged along… safely wrapped up in a wet paper towel and a plastic container or sandwich bag (don’t judge). After a few years my son asked if I could leave the carrots out of his lunchbox, claiming he “didn’t have enough time” to eat all of the items I included.

Looking back now, I can clearly see. It was the beginning of the end.

My kids continued to grow, in part because of (or in spite of) the baby carrots in the bowl on the table.

I mean, what’s not to love? They are crunchy, colorful, small and easy to eat. Full of vitamins. Like a little mommy insurance policy that I’m doing this gig right.

Until about three months ago, when it all came crashing down.

I had still been putting the baby carrots on the table, even though my kids are old enough to choose their own snacks and lunches.

But I noticed that nobody was eating them.

They would dry up and turn a chalky white before the bag was even half empty. I was worried that my one tried-and-true mom trick had lost steam.

Then? The intervention.

I decided to put it all out on the table. Bare my soul.

“Um, hey… so I’ve been thinking that maybe we’re a bit tired of baby carrots?” I choked out at the dinner table. My mind was racing with ideas for our next veggie star. Rutabaga? Baby bok choy? Beets?

And my husband and daughter let me down easy, gently. They admitted that yes, they were tired of the old stand-by vegetable and that they would be perfectly fine if I stopped buying them. My chest tightened a bit. How would I keep them all healthy?

And life went on, amazingly much the same as before. I stopped buying the baby carrots and resisted the urge to quickly substitute a new crunchy vegetable in a bowl at mealtime. Chinese snap peas? Jicama?

Until fate introduced me to the spiralizer.

This incredibly cool kitchen gadget has opened up a whole new world of vegetables to me. I can turn vegetables into noodles! Substitute them for pasta! I can spiralize parsnips, beets, zucchini, butternut squash, jicama and broccoli stems.

And carrots.

And suddenly, I’m back on my game.

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This essay originally ran on the Erma Bombeck Writer’s Workshop site. I may have been giddy about it.

A Mother’s Best Asset

She steps into the exam room, staring at the chart the nurse shoved into her hands and is quickly trying to assess my medical history in the 5 steps between the door and the exam table.

She looks up, squints at my forehead a wee bit too long, and then fixes her gaze just a bit lower.

“Your friends must be envious of your skin!” she proclaims, making me question either her eyesight or her medical credentials.

Possibly both.

Apparently she missed the reason for my appointment that clearly states “35-year acne sufferer” and “what the hell can I use for these wrinkles” as reasons for my dermatologist visit today.

“Um, NO,” I say, maybe a little bit too quickly. “My skin is nothing to brag about,” I add, instantly wishing I were sitting in the dental chair instead.

With nitrous oxide.

“Your neck!” she exclaims, “The skin on your neck is smooth and firm, beautiful,” she says, with a glint in her eyes that almost makes me believe her. If she wasn’t young enough to be my daughter.

Maybe she had wine with lunch.

At this point, I am forced to ponder my neck… a part of my body I have never considered as a separate entity, I guess. The biggest job my neck has is holding my head up and supporting a necklace now and then. And even then I have been known on many occasions to simply rest my head on my desk after a particularly strenuous bout of editing. So even my neck can be lazy.

My neck? Never a point of conversation until now.

My babies have nuzzled my neck after midnight feedings, when the lure of sleep called to me from the bedroom but motherhood won and I stayed just a few moments longer on the couch to drink in their sweet, milky scent. My neck has comforted a little girl with a broken arm, a boy who lost his grandfather, kids mourning the loss of their first family dog and a dear friend who lost her husband too early and too tragically. My neck snuggled my mother when she lost her husband too many years too soon and cradled my husband when he lost not one but both of his beloved grandfathers.

I have craned my neck ever-so-slightly to see if a teenager’s car has pulled up in the driveway yet… at half past 11. My neck has betrayed me with osteoarthritis and sent me to physical therapy on more than one occasion.

My neck? It may not be much to brag about, or a part of my body that my much-younger friends will envy. But this neck — my neck — has proven to be an incredibly valuable part of my anatomy that I simply take for granted most days.

“Yes,” I stammer. “My neck is amazing,” I finally say.

And I smile a little bit bigger…

In spite of the huge zit on my chin.

neck and necklacs

All I want for Christmas is at Neiman Marcus

When I was a kid, Christmas was all about me. Starting each November, I would carefully turn down page corners in the huge Sears catalogue and circle my must-haves with a marker. Then I would carefully craft my annual letter to the portly man in the red suit, reminding him of all the good deeds I had accomplished that year. There may have been embellishing or a few little white lies, but he always came through.

I miss those days. Sure, running the whole Santa gig is awesome when your kids are young, but I’ve been Santa’s Helper for 19 years now.

It’s my turn. The Neiman Marcus Christmas Book has arrived.

Dear Santa,

It’s been a long time since I last wrote to you, but I’m sure you will remember me. I was the one who was always kind and caring to her little brother, even though he was always getting into my stuff. I always did what I was told, made my bed, said my prayers and did my homework. That’s how I remember it, anyway. Except that one time when I cut my own hair.

I’ve been a mom for more years than I can count now, Santa. I don’t like to brag, but I’m an amazing mom. Except for those times I had to call 911, locked a newborn baby in the car, burned a few dinners, ran out of diapers, said things my mother would never have said, fed small children Doritos and rice for dinner, cried over Algebra homework and lost my cool at Target I really rock this job. So I am sure you can see why I deserve some swag under the tree that’s just for me.

Jimmy Choo Biker Fox Fur and Floral Suede Shoulder Bag ($5,595)

A dramatic play of texture and color, this Jimmy Choo Biker fur bag is for far more than holding your things—it will finish any ensemble with extravagance.

If I had this bag, my status would instantly be raised from simply Soccer Mom to Uber-Chic and Trendy Mom. My yoga pants and ratty Old Navy sweatshirt would suddenly be extravagant. With all that thick fox fur I might even be able to trick my daughter into thinking this is an actual puppy, which is a win-win for me. Lined in leather, so those random pieces of chewed gum and sticky used tissues will be a breeze to remove.

Sofia Cashmere Diamond Cable Knit Cashmere Throw ($1,150)

These posh throws are one warming trend that will never go out of season.

I really need one of these, Santa. I need time on the couch with my remote control, a strong cup of coffee, a pound or so of peanut brittle and a cashmere throw. Maybe even two of them, so I can cover those stains where I spilled my wine and the dog threw up. As an extra bonus, this throw could double for an outfit when the UPS man comes to the door and I need to cover my yoga pants. See how beautiful and relaxed the woman in the picture looks? Totally me.

Michael Kors Leather-Bodice dress ($3,995)

Michael Kors applies true Yankee sensibility to his tweeds, plaids, lace, and leather. All-American sportswear with an English accent!

Well, there you go — I want to be all English-y and have people think I am sophisticated when I pop into Target for laundry soap or drag
the dog to the vet to have her anal glands expressed. And leather? So sexy, especially on someone my age because it wrinkles in a pattern just like my skin. The skirt is made from angora, wool and cashgora which I am pretty sure is some endangered species of mouse found only on mountain tops in Tibet. The model looks like she just stepped on a Lego, so she obviously knows my life. I would totally rock this dress.

Jean Paul Gaultier Lace-Mesh Long-Sleeve Dress ($395)

The only thing better than a fitted dress is our exclusive lace-embellished Jean Paul Gaultier sheath in a bright, sprightly emerald hue.

I want to be bright and sprightly too — like I feel when the holiday break ends and I drop the kids off at school. What this dress lacks in coverage, it makes up for in versatility. The meshy fabric would be great for attracting dust and dog hair. Why buy just a dress when I can have a shirt,
nightgown and dust rag all in one?

Heritage Hen Farm Beau coop ($100,000)

Dawn breaks. The hens descend from their bespoke Versailles-inspired Le Petit Trianon house to their playground below for a morning wing stretch. Slipping on your wellies, you start for the coop and are greeted by the pleasant clucking of your specially chosen flock and the site of the poshest hen house ever imagined.

Poshest hen house? This place rocks! Forget the hens — this is going to be my own little mommy hideaway. It has a living room, library, an elegant chandelier and a broody room — I have no idea what that is, but I think I need one at least once a month. Fold your own laundry people — mommy’s tending her flock of magazines and martinis.

Teardrop Tailgate trailer ($150,000)

A chorus of cheers rings out the minute you pull up. Tailgating will never be the same now that your Bulleit Frontier Whiskey Woody-Tailgate Trailer is on the scene. You park, open the hatch, and slide out the bar—cocktails anyone?

I have to admit it — I am not the best school volunteer/homeroom lice checker/team mom/PTA coordinator. At best I can volunteer to bring juice boxes or send a check for the field trip. With this awesome trailer, I could erase years of bad karma with the uber-reliable room moms! Hook it up to the trailer hitch on my gas-guzzling SUV and haul it to the PTA meeting. Instantly I become the bestest, funnest and most in-demand mommy
on the playground. Extra bonus points if I can play old episodes of Parenthood on the flat screen TV.

Tom Ford Beauty Exclusive 16 Color Nail Set ($480)

Tom Ford Beauty debuts a wardrobe of high-performance polishes, offering mega-watt shine, while staying true to color. The extra-amplified gloss and shine nail lacquer — in a wardrobe of shades, from alluring brights to chic neutrals — lets you express your mood and complete your look.

Who knew that all I really needed was a coat of expensive nail polish? I thought my Old Navy jeans were a “look” but hey, why not take things to the next level? With so many interesting colors I might have to have the kids walk home from school because I am busy doing my nails — in my hen house. I am especially enamored of the colors all moms should recognize: Naked, Fever Pink, Coral Blame, Bordeaux Lust and Bitter Bitch. Seriously, I am not making these up.

Tweezerman Crystal Tweezer and Stand ($200)

Add some glamour to your bathroom and a little dazzle to your brow beauty routine with this Luxe Edition of Tweezerman’s award-winning Slant.

I need these tweezers, and not just because they are beautiful and sparkly. My rusty old tweezers have seen one too many gray eyebrow hair or splinter-in-the-foot and I am only slightly exaggerating when I say the whole family may need updated tetanus shots. Plus, these are classy
enough that I can tweeze my eyebrows (or nose hair) anywhere I need to – even in the nicest restaurants.

all photos courtesy of the Neiman Marcus Christmas Book
 

And, Santa? If you are having a tough year – with the price of gas and bacon being so sky high — I would also be just as happy with a new
umbrella, some socks without holes in them and a popover pan.

Love,

Sherri

Jean Envy

They mock me from the closet…from the low shelf, hidden under an old pair of flip-flops and a sweater that’s missing a button.

The pair of Miss Me jeans with the bespangled back pockets (that is totally a word).

I bought them a few months ago, in a fit of enthusiasm that I had scored an awesome deal and they fit.

Having legs that are just about one inch shy of being regular length, I get giddy when I find a pair of LONG jeans that will fit me and not look like cropped pants.

Not that those aren’t cute.

But the Miss Me jeans?

They are awesome.

And yet, they remain with tags, on that low shelf.

I have stolen their chance at glory…stolen their chance to hug the slight curves of a sorority girl or grace the backside of rodeo queen.

What was I thinking?

Tags remain attached, giving slight hope that a sensible return-for-store-credit might be the solution.

And yet…

I want them.

I want to pull them on and admire the blingy back pockets that only draw attention to that flattened place where I sit and write.

I want to wear them to my favorite haunts…the grocery store, Target or the gas station.

I want to sparkle…just a bit.

Isn’t that OK? Does it really matter how silly a middle-aged woman may look with sparkles on her backside?

I took it to the Twitter a few weeks ago…threw it out there…

When is a woman too old for bling on her back pockets?

There was plenty of advice, including this:
“If she has to ask, she probably already knows the answer.”

Damn Twitter.

I want to sparkle a bit longer.

I want to stay up late and run with scissors and eat my ice cream first.

To say no, to take a chance, to dream big and just be alive.

With sparkles on my ass.

…and still, they mock me from the closet.

What am I afraid of? Does it really matter that I am too old to sparkle?

My time to sparkle may be now.

And it may just start with a fabulous pair of jeans.

25 Years to Life

He says I still have that new bride smell.

That man I exchanged “I do’s” with twenty-five years ago this week…the man I promised to love and to cherish, to honor and cook for, and to continue to laugh at his potty humor until death do us part.

Twenty-five.

Wow.

In that amount of time, people tend to hoard accumulate things. Things that may or may not have a real use later on down the road, yet they stay on the shelf, tucked away for later. Maybe these things were actually used for years, used to the point that even the donation truck might leave them on the side of the road.

We have things like that.

  1. A kitchen trashcan in the most beautiful 80s shade of baby blue. While it has served a long and useful life of 25 years, the cracks extend a wee bit further down the side each week.
  2. The hamper for our dirty clothes that was purchased on a romantic shopping trip to Cost Plus, during which time we declared, “Let’s join our dirty clothes!” and it still serves dutifully. Unfortunately, there are no cracks and I think this one may outlast us all.
  3. A toaster oven, which was lovingly gifted to us on our wedding day by a wedding guest who shall remain nameless (because I can’t remember). Hubs feels that the toaster oven is the be-all-end-all of kitchen appliances. I feel like it looks like a cross between R2D2 and SpongeBob SquarePants, and have relegated it to the cupboard.
  4. Matching set of bamboo beach mats, purchased on our first trip to Hawaii so many years ago. While they seemed like a great idea, nobody told us about the crazy pattern the bamboo leaves on your exposed skin. Ouch. They have resided in the attic ever since, never to see sand again.
  5. Blown-glass drink stirrers, with various tropical birds perched on the end. These were purchased on our honeymoon in Mexico, and we envisioned raging parties hosted at our tiny apartment where we would pass out drink stirrers to our happy guests. I am still trying to figure out exactly what type of drink requires stirring.
  6. A humongous counter-top microwave oven from the 80s, the size of which rivals a mini-Cooper. After occupying half of the entire kitchen counter-top for years, we moved to our current home which has a built-in microwave. Sixteen years ago. The intended recipient of the microwave (college kid) claims that his roommate has one. I fear I will one day be buried in it.
  7. A VCR. I cannot even imagine why we still have this. For you young ones, this is the prehistoric version of the modern-day DVD player.
  8. We still have the very first can opener we purchased, back when opening a can meant, “Dinner is served!”. I am pretty sure we are all current on our tetanus shots.
  9. The fire extinguisher that hangs in our garage, in that manly section referred to as the “Home Safety Center” by hubs. I fear that when I actually need a fire extinguisher, only glitter and dust will come out of the nozzle.
  10. A large paper-mache parrot, who has been a prized possession since our honeymoon in Mexico. We brought him home on the airplane back in the days when you could carry-on strange objects that could be used to pummel someone and take over the plane. Now he would be subject to a body-cavity search.

 

Sentimental old fools, or hoarders?

What do you still have after all these years?

 

Trifecta at the Mall

There was a time when I loved the mall. Really loved it.

The problem is, this particular time in my life was about thirty years ago.

The mall has changed.

My daughter needed a few things last weekend: a pair of jeans, a birthday present for a friend, and a pair of shoes. Simple enough, I thought…we’ll just hit the mall.

First stop?

Sephora

Where hard-earned money goes to die.

There are more types of makeup, brushes and facial cleansers in this store than there are ugly polyester pants at Sears. Products I’ve never even heard of before.

Clearly I am not their target market, with my Maybelline mascara and Wet and Wild concealer. The salesperson who dared to come up behind me and ask, “Have you ever used the BeneTint before?” was visibly shaken when I turned around and displayed my late-forties, barely-made-up face. She quickly made a beeline for the trophy wife who just entered the store.

Next stop?

Abercrombie & Fitch

Or my new name for it, Pornography & Fitch.

There are two Abercrombie stores at our mall: the kid one, and the adult one. This was one of the only times I have set foot into the adult store, and I was immediately attacked with display ad images I wanted to cover with my coat.

The worst offender was a full-sized perfume ad that showed a completely naked dude from the side (all the way down to his knees) against the back of a topless chick in the process of pulling off her jeans. Seriously, is the perfume that crappy that they need the porn to sell it? If I had those images on my computer, they would be considered porn. But life-sized in a store that caters to the 13 – 22 year old crowd, it’s fine. I am no prude by any means, but it really bothered me that my daughter would see that and think it was OK.

And don’t get me started on the lace shorts that looked suspiciously like underwear, but were being marketed as shorts. Um, no.

And for our third stop?

Hollister

Also known as Life’s a Beach Every Stinkin’ Day of the Year in Here.

I’ve become a semi-regular at Hollister these past two years, now that my daughter is old enough to wear their clothes. I pretend to look at the cute sweaters and tanks, but it’s quite obvious to the staff I am only there to provide the credit card once the cute clothes are chosen.

I try and fade into the background, but one time this tactic resulted in me being squirted with that hideous fragrance they spray on the clothes. Yes, they spray it directly onto the clothes…I’ve seen them. The vibe in Hollister is so beachy I’m tempted to bring my towel and take a nap next time we shop.

I am never asked if I’m finding everything OK in Hollister because it’s painfully obvious I’m not the one doing the finding.

And their friendly greeting when you come in, “Hey, how’s it goin’?” is painful to respond to. I decided next time I will say, “Well, it’s goin’ pretty good except for that bunion I just had removed and the unexplained heartburn and gas I’ve been experiencing.”

 

I suppose the proper payback would be to drag my daughter to Chicos? Pretty sure they don’t have any soft porn ad campaigns.

 

So Unfair

‘Twas ten days after Christmas, and all through my pad…

There were no cookies, no fruitcake, no fudge to be had.

The daughter had been wrestled from snug in her bed…

And returned to her classroom; what each teacher dreads.

With hubs in his sweatshirt, and I in my slippers…

We drank lots of coffee, but still weren’t quite chipper.

When from the teen’s bedroom there arose cell phone chatter…

We opened his door to see what was the matter.

“Let’s go bowling; then we’ll get lunch! Let’s see a movie, maybe a bunch!”

“To Starbucks! To McDonald’s! To the big downtown mall! Now drive away, drive away, drive away all!”

As restless college kids that before the end of winter break  sigh…

When they have to hang out with parents, without asking why…

So off to his adventures with his posse he flew…

With a wallet full of gift cards, and a wad of cash too.

And we heard him exclaim as he drove out of sight…

“I’ve got one more week of vacation, suckers! I’ll see you tonight!”

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Got friends? Great, amazing girlfriends? Then you’ll understand my Moonfrye post today, That Kind of Friend. Would love to have you visit me over there today.

And bring a friend.