Tuesday, November 25, 2008

Sweet Potato Souffle

If you are still putting marshmallows on top of your sweet potatoes (dry heave) and wondering why your kids won't eat them, this recipe will save your day. It is the kind of dish that tastes like dessert, yet contains enough vegetableness to count as a side. En-joy.

Sweet Potato Souffle
Boil 5-7 Sweet Potatoes until tender. Remove skin.
Mash with:
2-3 eggs
1/2 can condensed milk (more if needed)
1/4 cup sugar
1 tsp cinnamon
1 tsp nutmeg
Put in baking dish and add topping:
1 stick of butter
1/2 cup brown sugar
1 cup pecans (crushed)
Bake for 1/2 hour to 45 minutes at 350.
Watch topping to make sure it doesn't get too brown.

Friday, November 21, 2008

Locomotion Videos

My dear friend Jessica asked me recently if I knew of any good train videos for boys. I broke out into evil laughter because our DVD cabinet is like the Blockbuster of live locomotion. So, if you are in the market for some little boy *crack* here is a synopsis of Toby's favorites:

Real Trains For Kids
If you really hate yourself and sanity in general, you will want to buy the "Real Trains for Kids" videos. This genius took his Best Buy video recorder and parked it on tracks all over New Jersey. Hours of live train action. Literally, hours.

All About... [Fast Trains, Garbage and Recycling, Airplanes]
The "All About..." series is badly-acted and illogically-plotted, yet addictively entertaining to a three-year-old. They do contain a lot of information if you want your child to be well-versed in sanitation or railroad construction.

Mighty Machines: Diggers and Dozers
Last, the all-time most irritating video ever shot with a cam-corder and dubbed over with eye-gougingly good singing is "Mighty Machines". Each tractor in this video has its own character voice, brilliantly performed by the same guy. This is Toby's current favorite. You don't have to send me a sympathy card, because I already have a stack from my mother who purchased it.

Bonus: Charlie Trash Truck
Charlie Trash Truck was conceived by a pediatrician named "Dr. Jay" who started his own production company for this one video. The show contains live garbage truck footage with lots and lots and lots of factual snippets. It is the kind of cheesy production you get when education and entertainment mingle together. The video's salvation is an astonishingly svelte trash man named "Operator Tom".

This is my Christmas gift to all of you mothers of boys (sorry Sarah). Consider it an hour of free babysitting courtesy of the runningmama. En-joy.

Monday, November 17, 2008

A Weekend With the Crankertons

"Stop looking at me Charlie. Stop looking at me Charlie. Mommy make Charlie stop looking at meeeeeee."

"If you don't look at him, he won't look at you," I say as I flip down the visor mirror and make sure it is really me talking and not my mother.

"Say 'Stop it!' to Charlie. Why is he looking at me when I'm not looking at him?"

I turn up the volume on the stereo so the rhythmic "aha's" of Voulez Vous drown out the one-sided brawl from the backseat. Charlie's eyes are so dead-locked on Toby I wonder if he secretly understands Toby's complaint and is internally laughing.

"Charlie, stop looking at Toby," I say, just in case.

Before I have a chance to stop it -- and I would have given my right eye -- the final track of my ABBA 1 CD fades away and the changer dutifully ushers in the next disc. Back, Back, Back I push but it is too late and Boz the big green bear repeats "Here we..., Here we..., Here we..." until I finally give up and let him spit out the full "Here we go!" in his irritating jubilation. Toby forgets Charlie's death stare to cheer for Boz, the big fat Christian version of Barney and for a moment I think I might prefer the whining.

Soon it doesn't matter because I can think of nothing but the stomach bug floating through pre-school again and if I remembered to put hand sanitizer on the boys before they ate the animal crackers in my friend Jenn's office. I can almost hear the triumph of the crittery virus making its way into the innards of my unsuspecting children because, I know I didn't remember and now we will all be barfing up a lung come tomorrow. And that makes me cranky.

But not as cranky as Charlie was later in the driveway, protesting the wretchedness of humanity because the front wheels of his riding fire truck were stuck in the grass. He waddled around me a few times with a squinched-up, moaning face before depositing his 2 foot self head first into the yard.

What is everybody's problem?

I could understand this better if we lived in a parched Ethiopian desert and relied on locust wings and cactus dew for survival, but we have no legitimate complaints. The hovering, nurturing parenting style I credit for their neatly trimmed nails and taste for yogurt smoothies is also responsible for the Bratty Crankertons that we have all become.

When it is time for bed, I briskly yank the oversized t-shirt over Toby's head. "Mommy, can we sleep in the living room again? I like sleeping in there with you."

We had a couch camp out weeks ago when he had the flu. What made him recall a night of puking into bath towels as a chummy slumber party I can't fathom. I squish his chubby cheeks in my hands and smooch him. "Toby, we sure did have fun, didn't we?"

And isn't that the beauty of family? Looking back on all these times, good or bad, and remembering only that you were loved.

Friday, November 7, 2008

Couch Throwing

Its the kind of evening when the bits of nothing I did all day lump themselves together into one large energy-sucking wad and sit comfortably on my shoulders while I survey the toy explosion that is my living room floor.

I could get up and sort the tractors and race cars and trains into their beautifully irrelevant bins, but then the world's youngest defense attorney would follow me around to justify the mess in his customary whine and I am too tired to litigate. No, I feel more like collapsing to the floor on my back and tickling the boys as they run by to hopefully avoid an actual game of chase.

This part of our evening, between dinner and bed, I sometimes watch the clock like an employee waiting for the end of my shift. Greg is equally unmotivated and flips between ESPN and ESPN 2 to catch a glimpse of what? I don't know, maybe the famously chiseled super-athlete he would have rather been at forty. The crowd-cheering game highlights and chatty commentary makes it harder to ignore the vehicular debris and the hint of dog smell on our carpet.

Only half an hour more... I think at seven-thirty as if then I will be putting on my sexy jeans and some high heels for martinis with the girls instead of staying in this same position, in this same t-shirt recycled from yesterday, staring blankly at the football stats whizzing below the SportsCenter news desk.

Its not that I mind being with my boys, me with a hyper-awareness that every day is a brief and finite luxury. Its just after replying cheerfully to the quantillionth snot emergency and rhetorical "Do you know...?", even they are tired of my smilingly present face.

These kind of evenings have a way of surprising me. Like when Greg, out-of-nowhere, grabs Toby and throws him on the couch like a giggly bag of sand. When Charlie's knee-high bean-of-a-self rushes toward his dad with arms lifted high, begging for his turn, its then that all of those nose wipes and time-outs have measured value and bring me satisfaction. Suddenly we are the world's happiest family, laughing hysterically as throw after throw, the pleasure of being together sails through the air on a small delighted face.

If tomorrow doesn't bring us a bowlful of sunshine at least we'll know that today, we didn't miss this.

I can think of no greater achievement.

Tuesday, November 4, 2008


Sunday morning I sat in church like my usual self, distracted by the people around me. I wondered what I was doing there. I thought about the yucky feeling that follows me around and keeps me from praying. I thought about it until it was with me and I felt bad.

I have been a Christian for a long time. I have been a Christian at church camp and chorused the togetherness songs and spilled my guts and cried and hugged. I have been a Christian in college and fought against legalism! and quenching the spirit! and hypocrisy! I memorized scripture and highlighted and underlined and studied three translations. I was a Christian and I felt good and I served and I was a Christian and I felt bad and I confessed. I was a Christian who rejoiced at birth and I was a Christian who mourned at death. I worshipped when worship meant "singing", then I worshipped when worship meant "living for God everyday". I was a Christian in a pew, I was a Christian on an old couch, and I was a Christian in a snazzy stadium seat.

Now I am tired of being a Christian.

People are hurting so bad around me and it is killing me. Being a Christian is not enough. They have heard it all before.

What is missing, and I mean this, is Christ.