5 Easy Last-minute Halloween Costumes

Do you need a last-minute Halloween costume for yourself or your child using items you likely have on hand? I’ve got you covered.

1) Baseball player: Put on a baseball jersey (or grab an old, white shirt and get artistic with markers to draw your own jersey) and a matching baseball cap, black or white leggings/pants tucked into tall white socks, and sneakers. Bonus items: Draw on eye black with eyeliner and grab a baseball mitt/bat.

2) Mickey Mouse: Throw on a black turtleneck/long-sleeve shirt, red pants/shorts (over black leggings), and black Mickey ears. Bonus items: Draw a black circle nose on your nose with eyeliner and wear yellow shoes, if you have them.

3) Rain cloud: Grab an old white/light gray solid color t-shirt and pants (or turn the shirt inside out so that it’s free of print/pattern) then freehand draw a large cumulus cloud shape on the front of the shirt with a marker and use fabric/hot glue to adhere cotton balls to the outline and interior of the cloud drawing. Draw rain drops on the shirt beaneath the cloud and on the pants using blue marker. Bonus items: Wear rain boots and carry an umbrella. (Note: do not wear the clothing items while gluing and drawing on them… that’s just not a good idea.)

4) Birthday baby: Grab an old white t-shirt and draw a “1” o “2” on it in big, block print using a marker. Throw on pants or a tutu, sneakers, and a birthday hat. Be sure to rock a big, goofy grin. Bonus items: Hold a cupcake (real or fake) or a noise maker, and smear frosting around your mouth.

5) Table: Grab an old brown/white shirt and use fabric/hot glue to adhere plastic cutlery, a paper plate, and a paper cup to the shirt in the form of a place setting. Bonus items: plastic food glued to the plate… keep it light weight though or it may fall off. (Note: don’t glue while wearing the clothes… be smart.)

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My Kids are A-holes: My Afternoon of Mommy Hell

When it’s 12:30 and you’re already wishing it was wine o’clock,  you know it’s bad.

I love my kids. I always wanted to be a mom. I’m immensely fortunate to have been granted the opportunity to parent my own biological children. Nonetheless, on occasion, my kids can be real assholes.

I knew my day was apt for a left turn when all of the kids were awake before 7:00am. Still, it was going to be a busy day complete with two school drop-offs, grocery shopping, grocery unpacking, preschool costume parade which coincided exactly with the inconveniently scheduled kindergarten early dismissal, lunch prep, breast milk pumping, and packing and shipping of frozen breastmilk for my milk recipient. There was lots to do but, fortunately, The Hubs was there to pitch to make it all work.

The Hubs took on school drop-offs and the yougest and I headed to the grocery store. Errand completed, groceries unloaded, lunch heating, and we had 15 minutes to spare before heading to the preschool parade. Just enough time for a nursing session. The Hubs manned kindergarten pick-up and the youngest and I drove to preschool. Perfection! That’s when the day went sideways.

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– We arrived at the school and the yougest was cranky. If he wasn’t attempting to waddle into the street, he was a fussy puddle of baby on the sidewalk. He repeatedly flung his chubby face at the glass double doors and streaked his way down the the glass in toddler melodrama.

– After the parade, the yougest and I headed to the classroom to retrieve the now-exhausted middle child.

– The middle child, dressed as the blue-haired merman from Nick Jr’s “Bubble Guppies”, refuses to leave the classroom or don his backpack until I put his blue wig in the backpack. Fine. Blue wig in backpack… whatever.

– We get to the car in the bustling preschool parking lot. He wants me to remove his costume pants right then and there. No. We live 3 minutes from school. You can survive. You’re wearing scale-printed leggings for goodness sakes! Get in your car seat.

– As I buckle the boys into their car seats, the middle child asks to hold his treat bag. I say he can but he may not eat anything from it. I hand him the bag. He flings it beside him in frustration because why look when you cannot eat?

– I pull out of the parking space and the middle child asks what’s for lunch. He throws his shoe when he hears it’s not noodles with meatballs.

– We haven’t even exited the parking lot when he throws his sock after I tell him that, no, I will not make him a separate lunch.

– We’re not even out of sight of the school when he throws his other shoe upon realizing, to his utter horror, that there’s a commercial on the radio. He shrieks that he wants music.

– Music comes on. I turn up the volume and he screams he doesn’t want music. I turn it louder and tell him I won’t turn it down until he stops screaming and whining.

– He eventually stops screaming and whining. I turn down the music.

– He wants his treat bag from the school party. It’s right next to him but he claims he can’t reach it. He can. He won’t. He freaks out and throws his remaining sock. Verdict: no treats for the rest of the day. He flips.

– I remind him of our in-car shoe removal policy: as soon as we park he has to collect his socks and shoes and walk inside as he is. He freaks out.

– We get home. The Hubs has successfully retrieve the eldest from school and is already back home. I unbuckle my youngest and unfasten the middle child. Within the seconds it takes me to walk around the minivan to let out the middle child, he has managed to refasten himself in the car seat and is losing his mind over being stuck in the car seat. I free him (though I really don’t want to.)

– I walk the emotional middle child through grabbing each thrown foot covering. He wails the entire time and walks barefoot into the house, the mermaid flippers appended to his scale-bedecked leggings wiggling with each step.

– The shoe-less Bubble Guppy melts as he gets inside. He remembers he didn’t want lunch.

– I put his treat bag on the counter so I can heat lunch, and he attempts to swipe the bag. I retrieve the bag and remind him that he doesn’t get treats today. Threat: his treat bag will be thrown away if he tries to steal it again.

– He complains about the lunch I’m preparing. I tell him to skip lunch then.

– He steals the treat bag. I throw the bag away. He screams. I tell him to go upstairs.

– He yells in the hallway that he’s hungry and wants lunch. He rips leaves from the fall garland and throws them down the stairs.

– Fuming, I put him in his room.

– I plate lunch. Everyone — minus the middle demon spawn — is eating. I hear him throwing stuff in his room (plastic hangers and stuffed animals) and yelling at me through his pacifier. Whatever. I’m eating.

– The tantrum is over. I send my eldest to fetch the middle child and to remind him that, if he’s good, he can come have lunch.

– Now wearing only tight whities, the middle child sits at the table, face red and puffy from the tirade, and happily exclaims that the lunch is yummy. The F… really??

– My eldest finishes lunch and goes to get a lollipop. I open the shrink wrap and lollipop shards fall all over the floor.

– I vacuum the lollipop bits. My youngest tips back in his chair (we have bungeed it to the table for just this reason) and gets stuck in the reclined position. I save him.

– My middle child can’t pick up the small pieces of lunch with his fork, so I have to feed him the rest. Meanwhile, my youngest demands immediate release from his booster seat.

– I clean up the middle and youngest children and get them ready for naptime.

– I send my middle child upstairs to go potty before naptime. He somehow pees in his underwear and in the toilet simultaneously. Skills.

– I go upstairs. I step in the pee puddle barefoot. Because, of course.

– I clean up the puddle and get my middle child ready for a nap.

– I nurse my yougest for his nap. Halfway through he pops off and wiggles down to the floor. No nap today.

– I put my youngest in the playroom where my eldest is chilling, and I get my breast pump together.

– I sit down to pump. 5 minutes in: “He stinks!” Complains my eldest. “Poo poo!” squeals my youngest.  I’m pumping so I tell them to hold on until I’m done.

– I finish pumping. Subpar output — a kick to the areolas for a pumping mom — but it’s reasonable given my stress level.

– I change my youngest: “poo poo” was an understatement. Total outfit change required.

– I have 15 minutes of break time before naptime is over. I pour a mug of hot tea and sit. Ahhh!

– 5 minutes later, the yougest is melting. He has decided that he wants to nurse and that it is now his naptime. Sorry, kid! You can nurse but you’re not napping.

– It is 2:00. Naptime is over. Post office, barber shop,,and dinner prep here we come! I unlatch the youngest and we gear up for the remainder of the day.

We survived. I didn’t lose my mind… entirely. I’ll call that a win.

 

 

 

 

I Wonder What Outsiders Think

I can only imagine what I look like to outsiders. Every day at kindergarten pick-up, my two boys run and play on the school lawn. There, beneath a shedding oak tree surrounded by grass and partially encircled by a well-tended flowerbed, the younger siblings of the school’s students play as we await the daily exodus.

The preschoolers and toddlers run in the shady grass, sharing toys and digging with sticks in the dirt. Meanwhile, moms look on from the sidewalk, chatting about extracurricular activities and school happenings.

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Then there’s me. I bob from one mom group to another uttering perhaps one maybe two complete sentences before racing to fish acorns from my 1-year-old’s mouth (trying not to get bitten in the process and swiping his back-up acorns from his soil-smothered mitts), fetching him from the flowerbed as he attempts to hurl a rock at the school building, redirecting him when he acts like a chinchilla and hurls fistfuls of dirt over himself as if taking a dust bath, prying him off of a bike left locked to the metal bike rack, reminding him not to tackle bigger kids, correcting him when he uses the metal flagpole as his own personal xylophone. Meanwhile, my 3.5-year-old scampers happily with the others, playing tag or airplanes in the sun.

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Every day I leave pick-up feeling like a haphazard bulletin board. Ideas and phrases, reminders and memories tacked at random but none of it illustrating a cohesive work. It’s simply an organized mess. Harnessed chaos.

And such is my life with three kids 5 and under. It’s a mess. It’s chaos. It’s exhausting. It’s mine.

One day I’ll be able to speak in complete sentences. One day life will be calm.

Until then, I will run and chase and scold and laugh and save and redirect, all while trying to pretend I am still capable of adult conversation. I will live this mayhem — exhausted and fulfilled — every day I’m able.

Who cares what outsiders think? I hope they laugh. I do.

Tis the Season of Crap

It’s prime birthday party season and Halloween is fast-approaching. You know what that means? Crap. SO much crap.

Am I the only one who can’t stand goody bags or party store loot? I know the kids love it — for the 30 seconds it lasts — and people feel inclined to give favors to party guests. I get it. Doesn’t matter though… I still despise the stuff. Not the givers, just the junk.

The bags of sweets and knickknacks only add excess crap to my already plentiful heap. The kids spend more time mourning the destruction of a $0.25 “Made in China” plastic toy than they actually spend playing with it.

Then there’s the fighting over who got what Ring Pop or which crappy kazoo is whose. The baby is mouthing every lead-tainted plastic car and trying to gnaw the rubber ball off of the plastic ball-paddle. Not to mention the bags of said crap filling my counter space. No.

Please, for the love of sanity, NO MORE CRAP!! Host a party and send my kids home empty-handed. Please!! Providing them with a fun afternoon and a sugar-high was repayment enough for whatever gift we gave.

I can guarantee most of the Teal Pumpkin items we will be collecting this Halloween will be tossed, just as I imagine the glow bracelets I dispense will be too. (Still, better to suffer a few extra spill-prone bubble tubes and googly-eye sunglasses than anaphylaxis.)

And so the circle of crap-giving continues. Halloween: the season of crap.

My Allergic Reaction to Dairy

So, it happened. I was dosed with dairy… entirely unintentionally. What does that mean for me? A week of discomfort — at times pain — and general mental ineptitude. However, this is not how every dairy-allergic person reacts to dairy exposure.

People respond differently to their allergens and the body’s reactions can escalate or decrease in severity with any exposure without notice. That’s the scary thing with allergic reactions: they’re unpredictable.

How bizarre is it that a person may one time not even react noticeably to his or her allergen, but another time may experience an allergic reaction far worse than any he or she had previously experienced? It’s troubling.

Each person’s allergic response to a shared allergen can be entirely different. One person may get hives, another may be anaplylactic, someone else may suffer digestive woes. There’s no singular allergy experience.

I realized my dairy allergy when I was six months postpartum with my middle child. I had been feeling “off”… achey and bloated with joint pain and digestive troubles. So I researched possible causes. I read an article and identified all of my symptoms — even ongoing issues I thought were unrelated — with dairy allergy. I decided to eliminate dairy from my diet for one week to see if it helped.

Not-so-secretly I hoped it would fail and I could return to my usual eating habits. Unfortunately, I had no such luck. Fortunately, I felt AMAZING!

My bones and joints no longer hurt, my knees looked entirely different than they had for years because they were no longer swollen, my digestion was normal, my lower belly pouch was gone, my brain fog disappeared, my headaches dissipated, my energy elevated, my mild acne vanished. Dairy was clearly the culprit. It was ingredient non grata.

Now, 3 years sans dairy, I am accustomed to how I feel without my allergen coursing through my system. In turn, my inflammatory response to dairy is unpleasant and unwelcome. When I do get dosed by unexpected dairy these are generally my symptoms:

Stomach bloating  (think first trimester pregnant.)

Stomach discomfort (it feels like there is a rock in my stomach)

Intestinal distress (frequent, intense bowel evacuation.)

Body aches (my bones hurt like I have a high fever)

Joint pain (my knees are hit the hardest followed by my wrists, fingers, and spine.)

Headache  (sometimes it manifests as a migraine with vision troubles, and other times as a nagging headache.)

Brain fog (I have trouble typing properly, my language recall is poor, I become forgetful and spacey, and my attention span is abbreviated. Considering my perpetual case of “mom brain”, these symptoms are truly obnoxious.)

Moodiness (I am quicker to anger and get frustrated easily. I feel sad and anxious.)

Fatigue (no amount of sleep or caffeine lessens it.)

Pimples (my skin is usually clear but, as dairy works its way out of my inflamed system, I get a smattering of blemishes.)

These symptoms last one full week, the brain fog being the last to dissipate. It sucks. However, knowing my usual allergy progression helps. Still,  one can never bank on a specific allergic response; allergies are fickle. And so it is best to remain vigilant in avoiding the allergen entirely.

Fortunately for me, living dairy-free isn’t as hard as I thought. It’s actually quite delicious!

 

Smoky Black Bean Burgers

Looking for a fast, easy, cheap, vegetarian (and dairy-free) burger recipe? I’ve got you covered! These meat-less patties garnered kid and omnivore approval, alike. Bonus: they’re freezer-friendly! So prepare and cook a big batch and freeze the rest for future fast, healthy meals.

SMOKY BLACK BEAN BURGERS

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Ingredients

(Makes 12 servings)

2 cans black beans (drained and rinsed)

1/2 vidalia onion  (minced)

1 red bell pepper  (minced)

2 eggs (whisked)

1 cup Panko (or dairy-free bread crumbs)

1 Tbl garlic powder

1 Tbl chili powder

1/2 Tbl smoked paprika (using smoked paprika is key)

1/2 Tbl Cumin

Salt & pepper to taste

Dairy-free hamburger buns

Directions

Use your preferred cooking oil to grease a large cooking pan.

Turn the stove to medium-high to warm the pan.

While the pan heats, place all of the ingredients — except for the hamburger buns — into a large bowl and mash with a handheld masher.

Once the mixture is combined enough to form patties, begin to form burger patties.

Place 4-5 burger patties in your pan, being careful not to overcrowd the cooking space.

Let the patties cook undisturbed for 3 minutes per side.

Remove the cooked patties from the pan and place on a paper towel to cool.

Continue cooking the remaining patties until all are nicely seared.

Serve the patties on hamburger buns topped with your favorite burger condiments.

Enjoy!

 

An Exercise in Gratitude

Sometimes — too often — I can get so engrossed in the day-to-day routine, the pick-ups, the drop-offs, the meal planning and preparing, the clean-up, the playtime, the storytime, the to-do list that I forget to take a breath and appreciate the abundance I have that allows for this chaos. Today, though, I am grateful.

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I am grateful for my supportive, appreciative, involved, loving husband. I am grateful for each of my three different and perfectly imperfect children. I am grateful for my health and life circumstances allowing me to be a stay-at-home mom.

I am grateful that my milk oversupply allows me to donate milk to others and that my husband is an immense supporter of the endeavor. I am grateful for encountering gracious and lovely milk recipients. I am grateful for being granted the opportunity to see friends and acquaintances accept the calling and serve others with their natural excess.

I am grateful for my fun, genuine, wholly beautiful mom friends. I am grateful for my non-mom friends who loyally stick by me knowing that one day we will socialize again (in the meantime, thank you social media!) I am grateful for family that strives to be regularly involved in our children’s lives.

I am grateful for date nights. I am grateful for mom dates. I am grateful for playdates and library story times. I am grateful for quiet walks and not-so-quiet family walks. I am grateful for playground memories and chaotic family dinners.

I am grateful for hurdles I’ve faced and overcome, as they have taught me, strengthened me, enriched me, and often allowed me to aid others facing similar challenges. I’m grateful for my sense of humor. I’m grateful for my personal gifts and for my weaknesses, as they make me who I am and keep me humble. I am grateful for my resilience. I am grateful for my toughness.

I am grateful for having been born who I am, where I am. I am grateful for the bad days because they make the good days shine brighter. I am grateful for my mistakes because they’ve forced me to change, grow, and learn. I’m grateful for pain because it makes wellness and comfort more notable.

I am grateful to have a home. I am grateful to have a husband and children. I am grateful for their health. I am grateful for my infertility battle as it made me a more appreciative parent than I may have otherwise been and it enhanced my life perspective. I am grateful that battle is in the past.

I am grateful for my educational background. I am grateful for the ability to send my children to school. I am grateful for our means. I am grateful for our monetary struggles, as they keep us humble. I am grateful for our challenges — past and present — as they have and will continue to shape us into a stronger family unit and help us appreciate the good.

I am grateful for it all.

What are you grateful for?

To-do List vs. Reality

What my brain thinks I can do within a 26-hour window of time is significantly more, I’ve learned, than what I am actually capable of doing. Especially with a highly mobile, descruction-loving, boob-barnacle 15-month-old in tow.

Once a month my 5-year-old and 3.5-year-old head to my parents’ for an overnight. My parents love it. The kids love it. The Hubs and I love it. The 15-month-old thinks it’s time to binge-breastfeed.

The week prior to the sleepover I mentally construct and weed through my to-do list. (Most of this happens when I’m nursing at 3am.) I have learned that I can only count on accomplishing 1 big to-do list task or 1 medium to-do list task and a smattering of small tasks. This means strategy is required in selecting the exact tasks to place on the sleepover docket.

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My original, wishful, unrestricted sleepover to-do list for this month looked like this:

Big Tasks: 1) Sort through coat closet and reorganize it with a double hanging rod, 2) Donate the growing heap of stuff on the dining room table, 3) Clean the deck, 4) Organize the garage, 5) Clean the inside of the minivan, 6) Clean my closet, 7) Organize the kids’ outgrown clothes

Small Tasks: 1) Go to a store to purchase 4 birthday gifts for upcoming parties, 2) Go to Ulta to purchase Halloween make-up, 3) Go to Target, 4) Purchase my Halloween costume-making stuff, 5) Fold and put away laundry, 6) Set out the week’s outfits for the kids, 7) Do a workout DVD, 8) Buy new curtains

Social Plans: 1) Dinner out with The Hubs, 2) Walk with mom friends

Hahahaha! No.

This is what I actually accomplished after the 15-month-old decided the first 5 hours were dedicated breastfeeding time and refused to nap.

Big Tasks: 1) Sorted through coat closet (sans reorganization with a double hanging rod), 2) Cleaned the deck (only because The Hubs kindly took over this task entirely… thank you!!), 3) Grabbed a handful of trash and an assortment of odds-and-ends from the minivan after searching for a Post-it note in the center console

Small Tasks: 1) Used Amazon to purchase 4 partial birthday gifts for upcoming parties, 2) Went to Ulta and purchased Halloween make-up, 3) Folded (but did not put away) laundry, 6) Set out the week’s outfits for the kids

Social Plans: 1) Dinner out with The Hubs

Oh, reality, you’re a bitch.

So, next time you see my crumb-dusted minivan with everything from swim floaties to winter mittens scrambled inside, my baskets overfilled with teetering towers of folded laundry, my dining room table donation heap, and my worn and stained curtains (with one set on the floor because the 3.5-year-old tried to twirl in them Cirque du Soleil style), know that at least my coat closet is half-cleaned, dammit!

A Mother’s Fear: When Your Child Counters Social Norms

I’m scared. And I’m mad about it.

My middle son is 3.5-years old. He loves Barbies and helicopters, chicken nuggets and bananas, princesses and unicorns, cuddles and story time, barreling down hills on his tricycle and playing trucks in the dirt, styling doll hair and layering on piles of dress-ups. He is himself. He is unique. He is fun and quirky and empathetic and can very often be a gigantic pain in the ass, as any preschool-aged middle child should be.

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As my son navigates this world I am increasingly fearful. Not of academic prowess and parent-teacher conferences, but of the outside world squashing him. Of him being judged, bullied, belittled, and being made to feel lesser or wrong for his preferences… whatever they may be.

I fear this push to change will not just be delivered by his peers or by strangers, but by extended family and people he considers friends. I fear him being embarrassed by who he is, feeling inferior or wrong because he may not fit some abstract mold that makes others feel comfortable in their social constructs. I fear he’ll hide himself or worse yet, hate himself.

Do I think his preschooler toy choices are indicative of his gender or sexuality? No. Do I think the outside world does? Yep. Do I care if my son is  gay, straight, asexual, pansexual, trans, bi, or whatever else? No but yes. I don’t care because he is my son and I love him unconditionally. Who he loves or how he self-identifies does not impact my love for him. There is nothing I could — or would — do to influence or change his identity. It is a part of him and I love him. It is entirely independent of me. It is entirely intrinsic to him.

Nevertheless, I do care about however he self-identifies because this world is full of both beautifully amazing people and loathsome bigots, as well as those who think they’re holy or helpful but are really just insecure. So, as much as I strive to surround myself and my children with good, accepting, loving people I know the judgmental lot is present. That scares me.

Criticism from even the inner circle creeps through when your son dons a tutu. “That’s too much,” “You shouldn’t allow that,” “He should play with this instead,” “I got him the superheroes because he’s a boy and her the princesses because she’s a girl,” “That’s not for boys.” Little digs that others may not even register burrow deep. One statement or insinuation alone may seem imperceptible but when lumped with the collection, it’s impossible to ignore.

The misunderstanding, the judgment, the desire to change, fix, undo is palpable. This is my son though. He is perfectly imperfect just as he is.

Whether my son loses all interest in princesses by age 5 or decides he wants to be a professional Lady Gaga impersonator, it should be HIS choice. It should be up to him to continue or dismiss his interests. It should never be up to Aunt So-and-So or Bobby from down the street. They can live their own lives as they choose. My son’s life is for HIM to live; he only gets one.

I worry often and greatly about pressure from myopic, insecure, misguided outsiders. I worry they will crush his spirit, make him change himself to fit their expectations — to make them feel better or more comfortable — instead of thriving in his uniqueness. I worry I am not encouraging him to adjust just enough to squeak beneath their radar. I worry that I am implying he should adjust at all.

But, as a mother of a growing son, what can I do? I cannot always shield and protect him. I can bolster him and help him feel secure enough to hopefully withstand some of the battering winds. I can teach him to be resilient and independent. I can encourage his self-esteem and moral fortitude. Eventually, though, he will have to stand alone and decide. Without me.

Whatever he enjoys, however he identifies, I hope he does so for himself. I hope he never thinks I would want him to be any other way than exactly the way he is. I hope he shuts out the naysayers and amplifies his supporters. This is his life. He should live it.

Packing Away the Pack-and-Play

Slow down, time!! Yesterday I packed away the pack-and-play for perhaps the last time. I washed all of the car seat / stroller toys and burp cloths for perhaps the last time. I stowed away the big highchair for perhaps the last time.

Not cool.

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15-month-old #3

I’m thrilled to greet this fun new stage of brimming independence in our 15-month-old. He’s walking and communicating, climbing and playing, asserting himself and overflowing with personality, mimicking and learning. It is a truly precious stage.

I wouldn’t wish it away. I certainly wouldn’t wish ourselves back to newborn days, but packing away the baby items is a reminder of the fleeting nature of childhood… of parenthood.

These are the golden days of my maternal career. The days crawl by in a haze of snacks, drop-offs, pick-ups, tantrums, story times, cuddles, potty trips, giggles, and timeouts. The years whizz by in a flurry of memories, mental snapshots, growth spurts, new skills, developmental bursts, and increasing independence.

I don’t want to reverse time. I just want to slow it down. Where’s my pause button?