Monday, November 9, 2015

I’ll Drink to That – Dining Out with Multiple Children

Caring for a 5, 3 & 1 year old every day can get tedious. There’s the mundane morning routine of trying to get everyone fed, dressed and out of the house at a decent hour, coming up with new DIY crafts to keep them occupied throughout the day and, not in the least, coercing them all into eating a mildly nutritious meal that doesn’t offend any of the sensitive palates to which I cater. They're delicate little butterflies and they deserve only the best (frozen pizza and canned green beans).

To keep things fun, I occasionally lose my damn mind shake things up a bit. Such was the case when my husband needed to work late last week and I decided to take all 3 kids out to dinner. At a restaurant. By myself.

Did I mention I have 3 kids?

Dining out with 3 young children was surprisingly not the stress free endeavor an idiot would I imagined. Since I can see those hamster wheels turning in your own head, I'm going to give you a heads up. To save you, my friends, I’ve recreated a rough schedule of what it looks like so that you don’t go into the same experience blindly.

I’ll Drink to That – Dining Out with Multiple Children

5:03 pm – The “This is taking longer than I expected, have to work late - sorry.” text is received.

5:04 pm - *insert (mostly internal) profanity-laced rant* Respond to husband’s text with curt, but subtle, “I see.” Must think of appropriate punishment before night falls. This one should be handled swiftly. 

5:06 pm – Sensing my frustration, Child #1 walks lazily into the kitchen and questions whether we’ll be eating dinner or air tonight. Five year olds are just the cutest, aren't they. Mumble under breath that she's more than welcome to eat a knuckle sandwich - realize DCFS may be calling soon.

5:15 pm – Coincidentally, a commercial airs touting “Fun, family atmosphere and ‘great prices’ for dinner at [local restaurant].”

5:16 pm – Come up with idea – completely on my own – to go out to dinner tonight at [local restaurant]. Praise myself for thinking outside the box.

5:30 pm – Pile into car after: 2 bathroom trips, one diaper change, one argument over whether or not pants are needed to go out to dinner (they are) and a discussion on if Princess Sophia is smarter than Daniel Tiger (she’s not).

5:47 pm – Pull into parking lot JUST as clouds burst open and rain transforms the path to the doorway into a waterfall. *insert (mostly internal) profanity-laced rant*

5:50 pm – Splash across pavement with industrial sized umbrella that manages to keep all 3 kids dry…I, of course, am soaked.

5:51 pm – Greet hostess who insists on chit chatting with each child politely as I motion impatiently that we just want to sit.

5:53 pm – Sit at table positioning older children across from Baby & I as they have insisted they MUST sit next to one another. Turn PBS Kids app on cellphone and watch as their eyes glaze over and mouths turn slack, captivated.  All is well.

5:54 pm – Declare myself winner of Dining Out. Smile idiotically at all other patrons.

5:56 pm – Waitress returns with water and requests dinner order. Problem arises as Child #2 decides he does NOT want same thing he gets on every single visit to every single restaurant in entire world. He wants [different]. Suggest [same] repeatedly - because you've met him - until he begins to raise his voice in panic at being overruled. Begrudgingly order [different] and threaten his life if he refuses to eat it.

5:57 pm – Baby’s turn! She decides my appearance has been too conservative thus far and attempts to pull my breast from shirt before I stop her. Responding in (loud) surprise startles her, sending her into an ear-splittingly defiant screech.

5:58 pm – Shove exposed breast into mouth (hers, not mine - that'd be weird). Quiet resumes.

6:00 pm – Child #1 knocks over water cup, in her rush to pick up mommy’s cellphone from table, knocks over 2nd water cup.

6:01 pm - *insert (mostly internal) profanity-laced rant* Waitress returns and kindly cleans up mess after locking eyes with me to ensure she will compensated at tip time. *sigh* She will.

6:09 pm – Dinner arrives. Child #2 is not at all impressed with [different]. The entire world is surprised.

6:10 pm – Child #1 has to use the bathroom, is reminded however that she used the bathroom before we left the house. She insists she can go by herself. Every episode of NBC's To Catch a Predator floods my mind as I respectfully tell her she cannot.

6:11 pm – Herd 3 hungry children into bathroom. Child #1 admits she didn’t actually have to go, mostly wanted to see if I’d let her go by herself so she could look in the mirror.

6:12 pm – Decide, while walking back to table, that children 1 & 2 will be written out of will…or given away at yard sale.

6:15 pm – After splitting Child #1’s meal between she & her brother, find myself eating [different] from Kids Menu. Baby participates by throwing French fries across table into Child #1’s mouth. (None make it.)

6:20 pm – Argument arises as older children realize table is “too small” and “her elbow keeps scratching mine.” Also, “he won’t close his mouth while he eats and that’s nasty.”

6:21 pm – Separate children as they argue over who gets to sit next to mommy (translation: who HAS to sit next to mommy) for the remainder of the meal.

6:22 pm – Child #2 wins (?).

6:25 pm – Cellphone screen can no longer be seen by both children on opposite sides of the table. It is now the end of the world.

6:29 pm – Crushed crayons, chicken tender bits and minced French fries litter the table. The volume in our small corner of the restaurant is steadily rising and I feel a faint sheen of sweat begin to form on my brow. The baby applies a honey mustard coated hand print to my shirt and I lose the little cool I have left.

6:30 pm – Child #1 stands abruptly, pointing off into the distance.

6:31 pm – Husband person walks in smiling and self-assured, “I figured you guys were here when your car was gone. I got done quicker than I thought!” Consider shanking him with butter knife.

6:32 pm – Hand over baby to sperm donor and swiftly walk to rear of building, consider making restaurant bathroom new residence.

6:33 pm – Realize there’s no mailbox, so I can’t get monthly Essence subscription. Runaway plan is foiled.

6:35 pm – Return to table just in time to see Super Daddy pay bill, scoop up (now) well-behaved children and smile in victory at nearby diners as they praise him for his "beautiful family"...not noticing slightly deranged & dirty woman limping behind him. Consider again stabbing him with salad fork…change mind when I remember I don’t like taking out the trash.

6:36 pm - Listen on the ride home as everyone coos over how much fun it was to go out to dinner with daddy.

And that’s how you dine out with 3 kids all by yourself. I think it can best be summed up with the words: Don’t take 3 kids out to dinner by yourself. You don't need to be anybody's hero, people, save yourself and order pizza. It's the way God intended.

Wednesday, November 4, 2015

When I Grow Up

The holiday season is here again and that means I'll be entertaining friends & family over dry ass turkey and $5 wine apple cider. My kids and their cousins will run wild with reckless abandon and I'll be smiling through gritted teeth as they narrowly avoid the one good lamp we have left in the house. At some point, my husband & I will get in to a ridiculous argument about who was supposed to pick up the Honeybaked Ham and then ignore one another for the rest of the day while trying to play nice in front of the others. I'll eventually stab him (lightly) with a fork and then we'll say grace. It's the stuff of Rockwell paintings, I tell ya.

Unfortunately, as I'm doing all of this familial hobnobbing I'll also be stuttering my way through mindless small talk and trying to remember which relatives don't know that I'm a potty mouthed troll yet - that circle is getting smaller every damn day, by the way - as I run the gamut of acceptable chit chat. 

No matter how expertly I steer the conversation though, I always encounter at least one well meaning counterpart that insists on counseling me on my future plans, like I'm some hard headed GED recipient who's thiiiiiiiis close to turning her life around after a rough patch in the mean streets (*cough* of the suburb I grew up in).

Something about Ashton being in big kid school now must make me seem like some lazy bump on a log with no direction. So most conversations I have end up coming around to my oh-so favorite: 

What are you going to do with yourself now? Yep, the 10 million dollar question. 

This one is a stay-at-home parent’s kryptonite. Just when you think you’re entertaining someone that “gets” your struggle, identifies with your uniquely erratic daily schedule, they flip the script on you. 

I’ll admit, I’ve struggled in the past, to piece together an answer that pleases everyone. I want to appear responsible and ambitious but apparently, my current “occupation” leaves much to be desired because I’m always questioned about what I’d like to do “when I grow up” and the kids are gone. Since it's so important to me that I consider everyone’s feelings and finally give them a response that makes sense, I’ve put a lot of thought into it and I actually came up with a few really good options of how I can spend my days (in a few short years when PJ goes to school). I’m honestly surprised these had never occurred to me before - not only do they give me a chance to make a real financial contribution to the house, I’ll get back that old sense of self and look like an adult again to all of the important people in my life.

Follow along with me as I take you through Brittni’s Top 5 List of Things I Want to Be…When My Kids Leave Me Alone:

#1 – Mall Train Conductor – This one hit me (almost literally) as I was walking to Macy’s the other day on my search of just the right mom jeans for a night out with my husband. Strolling along, I abruptly hear a loud honk and spun out of the way just in time to miss a speeding (3 mph) locomotive in the Stride Rite district. That’s it, I thought. If there’s one thing I’ve felt I missed out on lately, it’s travel. This way, I’d get to see the sights (all the way from Bloomingdale’s to the Food Court), and bypass paying for a plane ticket. Not to mention I’d get an awesome fucking hat. #AccessoriesAreEverything

#2 – Crossing Guard – My 3 year old son pointed out the other day, after we’d dropped off the big girl to school, that the woman standing on the corner and getting everyone’s attention was very pretty. 

I looked up quizzically to be sure the community hadn’t been invaded by prostitutes in the night, but was relieved to find an orange-vested matron with a light stick and white gloves pausing traffic so that a group of 5th graders could make their way onto the sidewalk. I was amazed at the power she had to literally stop a car in its tracks. She had vehicles backed up for half a block at her whim, I couldn’t even get the kids to stop fighting over a broken flashlight (that neither one of them really wanted) the night before. That’s what I needed, that type of influence; for people to look up at me – because they’re literally sitting beneath me in their car – and yield to my every gesture and desire. It’s like being queen...but of a crosswalk. If there’s one thing I could get used to, it’s the royal treatment at 7:30 in the morning, this one was definitely high on my list.

#3 – Housekeeper – I know what you’re thinking: You want to clean up after a bunch of little brats that don’t know where dirty underwear goes after a shower, haven’t you had your fill of that?! And you’re right, if I wanted to be some regular housekeeper, that’d be strange. But I don’t.

I want to be a TV housekeeper (or TVHo, if you will),  just like Alice from The Brady Bunch or Florence from The Jeffersons. TV housekeepers don’t clean 1 year old vomit in the middle of the night, they make a roast and family sits happily down and marvels over it’s deliciousness. TVHos don’t fuss with a 5 year old about why it’s inappropriate to slide down the bannister on a couch cushion, they engage in comical sassy banter with the man of the house all the while, lightly dusting a priceless family heirloom. TVHos do the least and get the most recognition, that’s something I’ve aspired to for YEARS. If I know one thing, it’s that I’d make a fantastic TVHo.

#4 – Rap video model – Let me be honest here, I am a gangsta. Hardcore thug mama, in the hizzouse, right here, baby. And as such, I’ve always had an ear for ratchet, artistic tunes. What better way to show my respect for the genre than to bring my ample derriere to the stage. Standing around dancing to the melodies of aging rappers in a bandage dress that’s two sizes too small, what is not to love?! And I’ve already got the wardrobe, half of my clothes are too small anyway! #ImReady

5 – Neurosurgeon – Yeah, you read that right. I’m intrigued at the idea of finally being able to get into my husband’s brain and figure out how a grown man still hasn’t mastered the art of washing a sink full of dirty dishes unless nagged for 2 days. I know the answer is in there somewhere, and I’m willing to open him up to find out.

I'm so glad I've managed to put this question to bed once and for all. I can finally get back to what this time of year is really about - candy corn and Motown's Greatest Christmas Hits album. God bless the holiday season…and all the nosey people it brings. Happy holidays!

Monday, September 21, 2015

Pinterest: Failure Is An Option

Do you hear that? It's the crinkle of fallen leaves underfoot. Sniff for me. Mmm, that's the smell of pumpkin spice wafting through the air and integrating itself into every edible concoction known to man. Now look down, you see that protruding gut? After 4 months of being "summer time fine," you're finally allowed to eat carbs again and turn into a chic sweater wearing chubster. That's right people, it's the most wonderful time of the year - it's fall! 

Pretty damn poetic, isn't it.
The temps are lowering, those cute cropped leather jackets are on sale again and the kids will start interrogating me about whether or not Santa & Jesus are homeboys. I love this time of year. Contrary to the first few weeks after New Year's, when I'm all spent from overindulging my body and my mind on commercialized merriment and turducken (is that still in?), Fall inspires in me a sense of renewal and excitement for things to come. 

This season also stimulates some latent sense of creativity I usually manage to supress the rest of the year. I don't know what it is about seeing the leaves change color but all of a sudden, I get to feeling like pre-penitiary Martha Stewart. I begin to believe that my frugality is a blessing and not a curse and that with just enough ingenuity I can make anything I set my mind to - potpourri from last night's leftovers? I'm on it. Some $250 Pottery Barn lamp shade lookalikes out of newspaper, chicken wire and scotch tape? Hell yeah. An Emeril's copycat recipe made with Walmart ingredients? I will crush that shit! 

That damn mindset has gotten my feelings hurt more times than I can count.

Recently I got some super sweet comments on the look of Baby P's birthday party that I've shared here on the blog and my other social media sites. It was met with some really positive feedback both from the guests and those kind enough to share comments elsewhere. It actually did quite a bit to boost the ego of this old gal.

But before I got too full of myself, I started going back through my photo albums and remembering when my Pinterest-inspired creativity didn't birth success. I thought it'd be fun if I also shared all the times Pinterest set me up for failure in recent years. You know, in the interest of full disclosure and whatnot. 

So if you're a crafty mama, or an aspiring Do It Yourself-er like moi, you should enjoy the following pictorial of The Top 5 Times Pinterest Pooped on My Party Parade: 


To be fair, my Independence Day Strawberries weren't the worst thing I've ever made in life. I was, however, irritated that my delicacies didn't live up to the smooth professional look of their inspiration berries and instead took on the look of a stumpy penis. (Cmon, I can't be the only one that sees that.)


I'm always looking for holiday decor that doesn't break the bank, so when I find "easy" tutorials that don't require a million expensive components, I'm all for it. How I went wrong rolling yarn around a stick is beyond me though. Even the kids wondered why I was putting "sad apples" with the rest of their Halloween decorations.


This failure can be chalked up to my desire to offer a vegan birthday alternative for my (egg & nut sensitive) 5 year old. But all the good intentions in the world didn't matter since I couldn't find a decent freakin' binding agent for my rainbow cake. 

Note: Though it didn't hold shape, this colorful mess did come in handy as a unconventional ice cream topping later that night when we sprinkled the "mush" over some sugar cones and snuggled in to watch Family Feud (the kids love saying, "Welcome to the Feud!" with Steve - go figure).


What's Christmas without gingerbread men? A much more kid friendly holiday, that's what...that is if the ginger village you're forgoing is the one my family & friends created. 

The army on the top left was created by the kids and I. What was supposed to be a charming little group of happy holiday merry makers took a turn for the worse, when I realized it looks like they've all been kidnapped and tortured at Guatanamo before baking. I have no idea what kind of pent up anger the 3 and 5 year old are holding onto to make such terrified looking cookie people. 

The bottom left pic was done over copious amounts of cognac and/or red wine while my friends and I re-choreographed a bunch of BeyoncĂ© videos. That probably explains a lot. 


[Insert sigh here] I had such high hopes for my popsicle stick Santa. I was Room Mom of the 3 year old's class and looking for a cute trinket to add on to some seasonal gift bags that had been created for everyone. This is what I came up with - Meth Santa. Helluva way to start their holiday break, don't ya think?

So if you're ever feeling down in the dumps this season after being Pin-spired to create some epic failure, take heart - you could be a lot worse off, you could be me.

Tuesday, September 15, 2015

My Baby is 1

Dear Parker,

It's already time to say happy 1st birthday to my very last little one and I'm not quite sure how I feel. I look at your face and wonder if you get how unbelievable this year has been for me. 

I keep watching you laugh with your brother and sister and wonder how you've grown so fast so quickly. You're this kid, this little lady and I feel like I've missed months at a time. I see you smile when I come into a room and your happiness gives me such a sense of...fulfillment and relief, really. I'm proud that when you see me, it's a good thing. Maybe that means I'm doing something right. The love from you 3 renews me in that way. How can such little people do so much?

It's only been a year but you've added a wholeness to my heart - my being - to the point I don't know what I'd have been like without you, Parker. All the pieces of me that seem to be constantly shifting...the puzzle I'm never sure if I'm putting together gains shape with you.

But you and I both know I'm not together all the way just yet. PJ, you bring out such strong emotions in me, even from the very moment I found out I was pregnant. Did you feel that? The fear and anxiety, it was all encompassing - what was that like on the inside? I was so shaken up I hated myself during that time. Angry that I couldn't find happiness just because things had deviated from my plan. That anger shamed me. The control I thought I had was slipping through my fingers and I dissolved. 

It was so scary to have the matter decided without first weighing options and drafting schedules...crazy people talk, right? Your mommy was not the embodiment of prenatal pride. Definitely not as picture perfect as the articles make it out to be and I'm sorry to admit that. I wasn't over the moon in love right away, I was afraid...mostly that I wouldn't get my "self" back again.

It seemed like I'd just started my journey - figuring myself out aside from catering to A & R - and now I was already being detoured. Honestly, I struggled with that. Being forced to give my all again, and thinking I had none left. But there's never enough for everyone I guess and time moved on. And I...well, I resigned myself, more than anything, to the change. When I finally got on board with everything though, it seemed like you were ready to pop out. I was playing catch up.

I hoped it would be a breeze when you got here; some type of redemption. Lord knows I had subjected myself to enough already, surely you'd reward me by being my easy baby. 

But easy wasn't in the cards. 

You do things your way; not like your sister, not like your brother. When I thought you'd slipped into a pattern you'd change it up again. Things that I'd remembered being so simple with the others were more challenging than they had to be. You'd scream on car rides relentlessly...and I cried regularly, in turn, unsure of why I couldn't "fix" you. But I was the one broken I think. My head was so cloudy, it took some time for me to get out of the fog. 

But with your every cry and each whine, I heard you more and more. Pay attention to me, it seemed you were saying. Be here with me, I saw in your eyes. 

And even though I felt like I was choking, I knew I owed it to you to be better. I wanted to prove to you that it wasn't a mistake. That you were supposed to be mine and, more importantly, that I was supposed to be yours. 

When I felt like I was failing, you saw me. Your eyes, those beautiful orbs that take up your whole face - they saw more of me than I wanted to share sometimes. Eyes so big and so bright they shine like stars. So when you looked at me, I found my way...even when it was dark, those eyes showed me the way out.

So maybe this is more than happy birthday. Maybe it's thanks for sticking with me, my last little baby.

Because you did, yours will be the scent that comes to mind when I think of snuggling with a squishy newborn after a bath. Your eyes will be the ones I see when I think of nursing at midnight, tired but content in your gaze. The elation I felt at seeing your first steps will stay with me because they're the last firsts I'll have. 

You're not my easy baby. You're demanding and strong willed and a little bit kooky. But that's how I know you belong to me. 

And thank god, even if I didn't realize it at first, I belong to you too...forever. So thanks for being the last, you sure knew how to take us out with a bang. Happy birthday, Parker. 

Monday, September 14, 2015

A Very Pinterest 1st Birthday

Well the reviews are in and I think Parker's first high society soiree was a hit. Should be the talk of all the babies in town. When I wasn't freaking out about entertaining, I was putting together an Under the Sea theme with some help from my pals over at Pinterest. 

Now, I'm not the craftiest person in the world...but it's amazing what you can accomplish when you forego Girls Night Out for a few weeks and instead  take an obsessive interest in preschool mermaid crafts. Take a look, I've attached links to a few of the items I was most inspired by. I hope something tickles your fancy. 

The birthday girl!
Somehow in all of my planning details I forgot to find an outfit for the guest of honor. I took for granted I'd be able to find a tiny mermaid ensemble but didn't have much luck. I did, however, have just enough time to grab this adorable crown from Kichiqueen on Etsy. I paired it with the first gold flecked skirt I found at Babies R Us and made a 'ONE' top using some gold fabric paint and a plain onesie.

Sweets for my sweetie pie - pay no attention to the family portrait from 1985 in the background...
I was still perfecting my "look."

Octopus delicacies: I couldn't pinpoint an initial source for these but there were tons of pics floating around, so I used those for inspiration and for the others, we had Swedish Fish leftover that I needed to do something with so...voila.
These cupcakes were interesting and one of the most talked about edibles at the event. Those with white frosting are vegan. Both girls - the 5 year old and 1 year old - have allergies and/or food sensitivities so I had to have an alternative available for them. I used a recipe from Kitchen Grrls and it seemed to go over pretty well. Those with blue icing and topped with Swedish Fish are red velvet gems from a family friend. Those also didn't last long at all!

I can't decide if the candy eyes on my starfish men ended up looking like boobs or not...but the kids didn't mind. 
Again, there was no original source for these under the sea treats but there are tons of similar pics floating around Pinterest. I specifically used the standard Rice Krispie Treats recipe and then a star shaped cookie cutter after they'd cooled. The candy eyes I found at Walmart and I used a dab of icing (from the cupcakes) to secure them in place. 

Is it a bird, a plane, a superhero? Nope, just an incredibly bruised (by day's end) banana dolphin.
My poor little banana dolphin had a tough day. When the kids realized what he was, they tried to take him out and "feed" him some of the other treats on the table. I had to save his life several times, so I'm not entirely sure he wasn't plotting my demise by the end of the day. I settled on him the day before the party though, when I realized I might not have time to make the watermelon shark I had my eyes on.

Our living room decor is beach inspired, so both sandy vases we'd already had lying around. But I added shells from Michaels and gussied them up a bit when I saw the super cute version Hostess with the Mostess posted on her blog.


The seaweed and glitter fish were made with crepe paper and sparkly card stock. I got the seaweed idea after looking at Growing Kids Ministry. And since I thought the balloon fish would be too tempting for little hands not to pop, and I also wanted to add some pizzazz I used some fancy card stock we had lying around that I'd previously purchased from Michael's. 

This DIY high chair decor was inspired by The Chickabug Blog. My lighting here is horrible, but the letters are made from the same sparkle paper as the fish on the walls.

We'd been taking pics of Parker monthly to add to a birthday picture frame of hers. But I saw a way to use all the pics (and some starfish) to complete her party theme over at Chicabug's blog.

To make the entrance to each room a bit more festive, I added super simple tissue paper poms in our theme colors and some crepe paper from the doorway. I then hung fish shapes from twine. It was a last minute addition, but I think it looked really nice as the guests stepped inside.

And I could never decide if I liked the crepe streamers draped or hanging, so in the more narrow doorways, I did this low hanging vertical version (with the same twine fish) with alternating colors. When people walked past it rippled like waves. Pretty cool. 

I fell in love with these paper lantern octopi (octopuses?) I saw on the Paperblog. I took some creative liberty with them and added eyes and streamers instead of the ribbon they used though.

My big guys wanted to assist with the decor so we found a painless craft on Daisy Cottage Designs and modified it to use the construction paper and Cheerios we had available at home. 

She was 1 happy mermaid!

Everyone had a really good time and most importantly my littlest baby got to be princess for a day, so it's definitely one for the books!