Tuesday, July 29, 2014

Grandparent Detox: The 5-Step Survival Method

My children have a lot of grandparents, several of whom we have been able to visit with this summer. My children love their grandparents and the grandparents LOVE their grandchildren.

It's a love that leads to freezers stocked with popsicles, marathon games of Candyland, and one grandpa who has erected a few tents in his living room and installed a swing from the ceiling in the hopes that the grandchildren will mistake his house for a circus, no doubt.

Gigi, a great-grandmother, always brings each of the children a surprise whenever she sees them, even though she lives right down the street. One time she stopped by to retrieve a pair of sunglasses and, upon the realization that she forgot to bring any special treats, became so distraught that she insisted they pick something out of her bag of groceries loaded in the trunk (Henry took her Veggie Straws and Jack chose a can of minestrone, just in case you were wondering).

It's a dangerous love. Once the kids get a taste, they want MORE. They are HOOKED. In fact, I suspect before our visits the grandparents plot ways to guarantee their grandchildren's loyalty and affection. Let's see...we'll start with ice cream for breakfast and then we'll play Thomas the Train for 3 hours and then maybe a trip to the moon! 

You can imagine their reaction, then, when we try to bring them back to reality after a visit with the grandparents.

They are shocked when we announce it is bedtime after the sun goes down. But we haven't even roasted marshmallows yet! They stare into the pantry in complete bewilderment. Why don't we have chocolate bars like Grandma? Even the suggestion of bathing sparks a complete meltdown. But I never had to take a bath at Grandpa's howwwwse!! He said the hot tub was just as gooood!

In fact, when the grandparent withdrawal hits, it manifests itself as one long, whiny, sobbing, floor-flopping meltdown, or what I like to call "Grandparent Detox." 

How long will it take for the effects of the grandparent narcotic to wear off? It's simple, really. To calculate, you must add up the amount of time your children spent with their grandparents and then multiply that by 2. So, if your child spent 3 days at Grandma's house, it will take 6 days for him to properly detox.

Grandparent Detox is hard on children and parents alike. Here are 5 steps to help everyone survive this grueling process.

Grandparent Detox: The 5- Step Survival Method

1. Be understanding

It is important to remember that it takes time to unlearn bad habits.

Be understanding with your children and slowly guide them down from their grandparent high with baby steps. Perhaps Grandma left the Disney Channel on for the entire 72 hours of their visit. It may be an overwhelming shock to the system to quit Doc McStuffins cold turkey. Instead, allow your children a good 4 hour TV block upon returning home and gradually reduce the time each day. Use that time to get a head start on unpacking, because like the Grandparent Detox rule of thumb, if the trip lasted 4 days, it will take 8 to unpack.

Grandparents clapping for their brilliant great-granddaughter who has just learned to HONK THE HORN.
After she gets steering down they are going to buy her a pony.
2. Be firm

If there was one word to describe grandparents, 'firm' would not be that word. 

Sometimes my 2-year-old will climb out of his crib after I put him down for a nap. I calmly, but firmly put him back in and tell him to stay there or else.

On our latest visit to one grandma's house, I had just put Henry & Elise down to nap when Grandma implored me to lie down and rest as well. 

After I woke up from a magnificent snooze, I found my 2-year-old in hysterics, convulsing on the floor, practically foaming at the mouth exactly like a...well...exactly like a toddler who has skipped his nap.

"What happened to Henry??" I asked Grandma.

"Well, don't be mad," she replied, "after you went to nap, he came in the kitchen and looked at me with those big eyes and I couldn't bear to put him back to bed, love his heart. So I let him sit in my lap and watch cartoons. And then he had 3 popsicles."

The closest I've ever heard a grandparent come to saying 'no' is, "Honey, I would let you have ice cream for breakfast, but your mother said no."

After several days of free-for-all living at Grandma's, your children need you to reinstate the rules and routines you've set for them. Be firm and stay strong.

3. Use threats

Let's say, hypothetically speaking, that you have very firmly explained to your child that we cannot just hop in the car and rush to the store on a whim because he wants Lucky Charms. You don't care that every time he sees Grammie they head to the store for Lucky Charms, it does not happen every time he sees Mommy. (Your husband begrudgingly adds that he never got Lucky Charms when he went to the store with Grammie and he lived with her for 18 years!) 

If your determined explanation still results in a glorious tantrum, it might be time to employ a new strategy.

Truth be told, it's really not a fair fight. Of course the children prefer the grandparents to mommy. Case in point:

GRANDPA: Takes children to stable to give hugs to horses.
MOMMY: Takes children to doctor to look at fish tank before getting shots.
See. There's that pony I was talking about.

GRANDMA: Showers children with gifts whenever she sees them.
MOMMY: Threatens to take away said gifts if children misbehave while she is showering.

MOMMY: Takes kids to grocery store, bank and dry cleaners.
GRANDPARENTS: Take kids to amusement park, children's museum and zoo. In one afternoon.
And also manage to squeeze in a quick trip to the salon.

OF COURSE the children will fight you with every fiber in their being in hopes of escaping back to The Place Where All Their Dreams Come True.

Threats may be your only weapon against them, as in, "Stop your screaming and get up off the floor or you WILL NEVER SEE GRANDMA AGAIN!!!"

4. Seek help from a higher power

Sometimes, the only way to succeed is to admit defeat.

When all else fails, close your eyes, bow your head, and call a grandma.

Beg her to take the kids for a few days.

5. Repeat steps 1-4

It's a vicious cycle, really.

Grandparents, if you don't stop spoiling them, these children may be taking a permanent vacation to your house!

Wait. Is that what you've been plotting??

You sneaky rascals.

This post has been syndicated at ScaryMommy.com

Monday, July 14, 2014

Flank Steak, 2 Ways {Freezer Meal}

We are a meat and potatoes kind of family.

I would like to write that we are a vegetarian, kale-loving, green smoothie-drinking, salad with no dressing-eating kind of family. It sounds so fresh and healthy. But it's not true. We love meat.

My kids, myself and my husband, especially my husband, all love a good steak. There is nothing better than a thick, juicy, perfectly cooked cut of beef. However, it's also one of those dishes that is reserved for special occasions, or at least a relaxing Sunday night. 

But sometimes we cheat. Sometimes we throw a steak on the grill on a Tuesday. This is our weeknight steak.

Flank steak is a lean, somewhat tough (i.e. less expensive) but flavorful cut of beef that benefits from the tenderizing effects of a marinade. My favorite marinades are a southwest-style marinade and a sweet teriyaki-style marinade. I've included my recipes for both below, hence Flank Steak 2 Ways! 

I like to buy flank steak 2 or 3 to a package at Costco, marinate them in a ziptop bag and throw them in the freezer for a great steak any night of the week!

When flank steak is marinated, cooked quickly at high heat, and thinly sliced, it practically melts in your mouth. This recipe calls for grilling the steak, but if you don’t have a grill, you can prepare the steak on a large cast iron frying pan.

Southwest Flank Steak is smokey and slightly spicy with a touch of sweetness. Chili powder and cumin give it that distinct southwest flavor.

Grill the steak for about 5 minutes on each side for medium-rare.

Serve with grilled vegetables in an attempt to be more healthy.

Slice the steak in thin strips against the grain.

The Asian Flank Steak is prepared the exact same way.

I like to live out my vegetarian fantasy by placing my beef atop a mountain of greens and colorful vegetables, much to the dismay of my carnivorous family.

Serves 4-6

Mix the following marinade and pour over a 1.5-2 lb. flank steak. Freeze in a Ziploc bag.
-1/3 cup olive oil
-2 cloves garlic, minced
-2 Tbsp red wine vinegar
-1/3 cup soy sauce
-1/4 cup honey
-1 tsp cumin
-1 tsp chili powder
-1 tsp thyme
-1/2 tsp paprika
-1/2 teaspoon freshly ground black pepper


Serves 4-6

Mix the following marinade and pour over a 1.5-2 lb. flank steak. Freeze in a Ziploc bag.

-¼ cup brown sugar
-1 tsp garlic
-1 tsp ginger
-½ cup soy sauce
-1 Tbsp sesame oil
-1 tsp red pepper flakes

Thaw steak completely before grilling. Grill about 5 minutes on each side for medium-rare steak. The extra marinade can be brought to a boil, then simmered in a small saucepan. It can be used to drizzle on top of the grilled flank steak.

Flank steak is best eaten medium rare; well done will make it too tough. When the steak has cooked to your preferred level of doneness, remove from the grill and place on a cutting board. Cover with aluminum foil to hold in the heat and to keep the steak from drying out, and let rest for 10 minutes. Thinly slice the steak against the grain. Serve and enjoy!

Tuesday, July 8, 2014

The Milestone You Hope For, But Don't Admit

'Flower', 'hotdog' and 'swing' are a few of the most recent words Elise has added to her rapidly expanding vocabulary. At 15 months old she can say well over 50 words which is far more than her brothers were speaking at this age. Henry, in particular, had about 5 words by 15 months and some of those were made up. At 2 and a half he is now speaking perfectly fine, which just goes to show that they all catch up eventually.

One milestone Elise has not yet mastered is WALKING. She was slow to crawl, so I'm not at all surprised that she is not toddling around the house yet. It's just that my arms are getting really tired. Also, it's summer now and the cement is hot and the playground is mulchy, so whenever we go outside she is not inclined to crawl around on surfaces that cause discomfort to her knees. Instead, she prefers for me to indulge her every whim and cart her around like her personal walking chauffeur.
Elise not walking outside.

Elise not walking at the park.

"Fow-a!" she yells, and I haul her over to smell the flowers. 

"Swing!" she demands, and we trot over to the playset.

"Ball!" she points across the yard and I say, "Let's just stay here and swing for a little bit."

"No! Nnnoooooo! Ball! BALL! BAAAAAALLLL!!!"

I am ready for her to walk.

Occasionally I try standing her up, stepping back and reaching out my arms. "Come on, Elise! Can you walk to Mama?"

"No." she states matter of factly. 

Sometimes I show her videos of her peers walking. My friend's 10-month-old recently took off and is practically jogging around his house.

"Look at this baby walking, Elise!"

"Walk-y, walk-y, walk-y" she chants in a sing-song voice. 

"Yes, he is only 10 MONTHS OLD! You've got 5 months on him! It's kind of embarrassing, really. Don't you want to walk like the baby?"

Elise at the strawberry farm.
Not walking.
Instead, she made Grammie cart her around.
"Now take me to that strawberry."
"And feed it to me."

At least her refusal to walk has benefited her communication skills.

Another word she has recently mastered is 'Elmo,' or as she calls him, 'Melmo'. In fact, this post is about how Elmo himself helped my baby achieve her latest milestone.

The funny thing is, she has never actually seen an episode of "Sesame Street," because I am vehemently opposed to toddlers watching television.

JUST KIDDING. No, it's because her brothers hog the TV and she has never expressed interest in watching cartoons about mutated turtles.

Her only Elmo exposure has come from books and hand-me-down toys and still, SHE LOVES MELMO.

I'm not sure what kind of muppet voodoo Jim Henson did to create the ultimate toddler celebrity, but they are all crazy about that little monster. I can only assume that Elmo is the toddler equivalent of Will Ferrell. Think about it: everybody loves Will Ferrell for reasons that can't be explained, he is rather furry too and the more you watch his movies, the funnier they get. I think toy manufacturers need to create an Elmo doll that says all Will Ferrell's catchphrases like Elmo needs more cowbell! and You're Elmo's boy, Blue! I would totally buy it. Yeah, you would too. See what I mean?

Anyway, Elise's favorite Elmo toy is a moving, talking doll passed down from cousins to my oldest when he was little. Basically, it's been through 4 children before her. It used to dance and stand on one foot and tell all sorts little stories and jokes. Unfortunately, one day my 2-year-old decided to use Elmo as a weapon and hurl him down the stairs at the 4-year-old. Jack ducked out of the way just in time, but poor Elmo smashed on the hardwood floor and broke his leg. Now, when his switch is flipped on, he immediately collapses to the floor and exclaims Uh oh, Elmo fell down! Can you help Elmo up, please? And since he will never be able to stand again, that is the only phrase he says.

Uh oh, Elmo fell down! Can you help Elmo up, please? Uh oh, Elmo fell down! Can you help Elmo up, please?

And STILL Elise loves Melmo.

She crawls around the house, dragging him behind her. Uh oh, Elmo fell down! Can you help Elmo up, please?

"Uh oh," she repeats.

So today I had a brilliant idea. I used Elmo to help my daughter achieve a major milestone. No, it was not walking. It is the one milestone that mothers secretly hope for but never admit.

Today, while Elise was busy not walking, I dug out an old Elmo DVD and popped it in.

She paused. She looked at the screen. She pointed. "Melmo. Melmo. Melmo! MELMO! MEEEELMO!"

And there she sat for the next 20 minutes thoroughly engrossed Elmo's World.

And I cleaned the kitchen without anyone trying to "help" me unload the dishwasher.

Elise may not be walking yet, but PRAISE THE LORD she is watching TV!

So if you'll excuse me, Elmo is doing a riveting impression of a horse right now, which means I have 20 minutes to go SHOWER IN PEACE for the first time in 15 months!

I'll take it.