10449515_10152804281021233_3424402695285680926_nOccasionally I get one of those parenting epiphanies that reminds me that most things are not that big a deal.  My kids aren’t in preschool yet, and I constantly feel like if they aren’t then I must fill their time with preschool like activities.  But I realized today that in the end it doesn’t matter.  ...continue reading No, Really, I Promise, It Isn’t the End of the World

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pancakes

....stuffed with BACON!  Because, seriously, what says fall sweaters and boots, scarves and hats, beer and football, more than maple-allspice-cinnamon-laden-bacon-filled goodness?

I was pretty sure that this pancake recipe couldn't get any better.  I have dozens of friends who swear by it.  It really is melt-in-your-mouth good.  And we are BIG on breakfast in this household. I've added spices, fruit, nuts, chocolate chips to this recipe and always had great results.  The running joke in this house is that this is about the only recipe that I haven't drastically fiddled with, because I'm a serial recipe un-follower!

But I wanted a little change, I was wanting something that had a little more texture and depth.  Plus, I'm never one to settle for the same old stuff come fall, and being overseas in a country with no color change has filled me with fall envy!  I needed something warm and filled with fall, something that would feel like a blustery October day, if food can do that.

Earlier this week I achieved a whole new level of pancake bliss, and it was all because I happened to grab the wrong container from the pantry, and we happened to have not much bacon left.  I had burned a whole pan full, which sent me in to quite the tizzy because pork gold bacon is like $12 a pack here!

I tweaked the famous recipe just a bit, and the results were astounding.  The pancakes had a nice crisp to the edges, and the spices made them very dinner-worthy.  And then, well, there is the bacon part- you can make anything amazing with the addition of BACON!  Don't worry, they are good without the bacon too, in case you were wondering.  They pair great with a pumpkin or oatmeal stout for the grownups (I have know idea how I knew that)!

The kids ate these up and H complained because we ran out.  I almost don't want to share these because I secretly want to keep them for myself. 🙂  But that would not be very graceful or generous would it?  So, without further adieu:

Maple Fall Spice Pancakes

6 pieces cooked bacon
3/4 cup of milk
2 tbsp apple cider vinegar  (or white vinegar if it's all you have)
1 cup flour
1 tsp baking powder
1/2 tsp baking soda
1/2 tsp salt
1/2 tsp cinnamon
1/2 tsp allspice
1/4 tsp cloves (opt. for a little extra something)
1 egg
2 tbsp melted butter
2 tbsp packed brown sugar (this was that wrong container I mentioned)

In a small bowl combine the vinegar and milk.  Set aside while you fry up the bacon.  In a medium pan cook bacon over low heat.  You want the bacon to be done evenly and crispy, not undercooked, and certainly not overdone.   I'm sure you could broil it or bake it to achieve this if you wanted, but seeing as my oven doesn't like to stay lit, I stuck to the stove top.  While the bacon is cooking mix your dry ingredients in a medium bowl.  In large bowl whisk egg, butter and brown sugar together.  Finish up bacon and place on paper towels to drain.  Whisk milk in to egg mixture.

I don't mix my wet and dry together until I'm absolutely ready to drop them in to the pan or griddle.  I'm having to use pans right now, on our pretty, but unreliable, gas stove in our new house.  I use two pans, with the burners set to the lowest flame.  I still have to pull the pans off between batches, and often wipe the pans with a paper towel because the butter burns.  But if you have a finicky stove like ours, these steps have ensured perfectly done pancakes, with no burning.  I can get this recipe done in three batches without the batter going flat.

So, once you're cooking surface of choice is heated (to where a few drops of water skid across the pan), mix your dry ingredients into your wet.  I use a rubber spatula for this part, folding slightly to get everything wet, but keep the mix clumpy.  Don't over mix lest you want flat pancakes!

Melt a little butter in your pan or spray with nonstick spray.  Drop batter in 1/4 cupfuls into pan and sprinkle with bacon pieces.

IMG_2011 Flip when edges are dry.

I do not make any representations as to how healthy (or not) these are!
I do not make any representations as to how healthy (or not) these are!

Enjoy plain or with real maple syrup (not that plastic bottle nonsense)!

IMG_2010
Happy Fall everyone!

~M

I sometimes share at these parties!  Come join the party fun!

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This is a mommy rant post, for all those mommies out there who sometimes really really need a shoulder to cry on, or whiskey in their coffee.  Multitudes of sarcasm will ensue.  

But before that, the other day a got this shot, which means there is hope on the horizon!  😉

Occasionally this happens.  Must mean we are doing something right....right?
Occasionally this happens. Must mean we are doing something right....right?  (Please excuse the mess, we just got our HHE!)

September 5, 2014:

Whoever came up with the phrase terrible two’s is a liar, and should be punished accordingly, because how simply evil can one be to make all the parents of the world believe that when they get through those first two years the heavens are going to open up and shower rainbows and unicorns upon them and their little angels, who will now magically be done with tantrums and diapers.

Three is really hard folks.  Sometimes it Just. Plain. Sucks.  Living with a three year old is akin to living with a miniature bi-polar terrorist.

Seriously, I think my three year old could give Al-Qaeda a run for their money.  I mean, just unleash the tasmanian devil on them for an afternoon and then BAM, world peace before you know it.  Who needs airstrikes?  Note I say Al-Qaeda and not ISIS- because they are just cray cray.

Anyway I digress, as usual, it started yesterday afternoon when usually a good nap sets the stage for a great afternoon, except when it doesn’t.  Patrick woke up with with an itch to be naughty, and when that happens, I might as well just tie myself up in a chair and relinquish all authority.  I’m not sure what it is that he inhales that sends him on a bender of mayhem, but depending on his mood it can last anywhere from hours to days….

He wanted more fruit snacks, and when I said no, he tantrumed (apparently tantrumed isn’t a word, but selfie is, so get with the program Merriam-Webster).  This was followed by taking his anger out on Little R with an inflatable Thor hammer.  (Thanks Dad, for the fruit snacks AND the hammer by the way- because that really made things interesting!)  Little R, shockingly, took offense and set out for his defense strategy which is to whine/cry/scream at a decibel and pitch that only dogs should hear and run for mommy’s legs, successfully tripping me up and making it impossible for me to move, i.e. catch Patrick.

So I scolded Patrick for attacking his brother and took the hammer and threw it downstairs.  More tantrum, followed by him raiding the refrigerator for more food.

“You may have an apple if you are hungry.”

“But I just want some more fruit snacks.”

“No, if you are hungry you can have an apple or some milk.”

“But if I say sorry to Reagan for hitting him, then I can ask for more fruit snacks.”

Nice try, buddy.

“That’s very good to apologize to Reagan for hitting him, but you still cannot have fruit snacks.”

Repeat tantrum above, this time with inflatable spider man sword.  He gets scolded and sent to his room.

Three is really really hard.

Time to hit the re-set button.  Deep breath, put on false Stepford mommy smile, glance longingly at wine cabinet.  “How about a bath everybody!”  Reagan goes squealing to the bathtub in excitement.

Thank goodness!  My inner mom pats herself on the back.  Good thinking!  Toddlers:2  Mom:1

We get the bath going and Patrick peaks his head around and decides to undress to get in as well.  I get Reagan all bathed up and shampoo Patrick, and then my three year old pulls yet another personality out of his hat.  This one was the I’m-suddenly-afraid-of-hair-washing- alter ego.  He screamed like I was spraying him with scalding water, or battery acid.  He screamed and screamed.  And then Reagan screamed and screamed.  I’m sure the entire building could hear it, since the little bathroom windows all line up along a kind of internal chimney in the building.  And then Reagan slipped and fell in the tub and screamed even more.

There goes all that work we put in to getting Reagan to be unafraid of the water again.  Months and months down the drain in a nanosecond.  Not to mention all the neighbors will think those Americans torture their children.

Three is really, really, really hard.  Toddler:3 Mom:1

I lose my temper, because that’s a totally productive thing to do.  “ENOUGH!”  And I proceed to fuss at Patrick for being, well for being three, and then I fuss at Reagan for refusing to actually sit down in the tub so as to not slip and fall….  because the 18 month old totally understands where I’m coming from.

Toddlers:4  Mom: 1

But they are scared into being quiet for a moment.  As I’m sulking in guilt and getting Reagan dressed Patrick cleans up the bath toys and drains the tub…

And then proceeds to let out his Chucky laugh and run around the house naked, refusing to get dressed.  A game of chase with Patrick is never any fun.  It’s like trying to catch the snitch on Harry Potter.  He’s too fast and there is a good chance I’ll end up with a broken arm.  If only I had a flying broom.

Three is, well you get it by now, really HARD.  Toddlers:5  Mom: 1

I wasn’t surprised by the chase, because how else is he going to react when I lose my cool?

At this point H calls and I freak out over the phone for about 90 seconds, you know, because all of THIS is happening, AND we are out of juice and butter, AND the internet is down, AND there is a problem with my phone.  Stupid third world telecom carriers, maybe I should get the CEO of Orange to watch the tasmanian devil for a day….

I put in a movie and try to get dinner started with Reagan latched between my legs.  I pry him off me and set him aside and he decides to protest by climbing onto the kitchen table.  Put up child gate.  Set whiny baby on other side.  Pull out wine bottle and pour BIG glass.  

I put on a playlist and begin chopping veggies.  I ignore the whining, and let the naked Chuckie run around and do whatever.

Toddlers:5  Mom:2

Not one of my best days, but not the worst.

Three sometimes really sucks.  But this too shall pass.

Later before bed, Patrick gives me a hug and a smile and a big “I love you Mommy.”  And my heart melts.  Reset button pushed.

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Warning, seriousness to follow.  And when I’m serious I ramble a bit, so apologies in advance.

Sometimes I have to take a moment and smell the roses.  Things are good.

In an All-American effort to keep working harder and keep self critiquing only to work harder, its nearly impossible to live in the moment and just take things as they are.

Occasionally I need to remind myself that things are good, that I’ve come so far from how I could have ended up, that I’ve achieved so much in a lot of ways.  And even if they aren't, it's OKAY!

I was reminded of this when we had new friends over for a play date.  Over coffee and the sounds of our children’s laughter I had an educated conversation with one of H’s coworkers.  It was so nice to speak with someone who shared a very similar outlook on life.  We talked about the kids and I blushed in embarrassment when I gave Little R a bottle.  It was close to nap time and he was getting cranky. Oh, and did I mention that he’s 18 months old?  I can see our pediatrician, hands off as she is, scowling across the ocean at us.  However, we’ve been through so much transition over the past several months, and, well, I seriously doubt he will be 2 or 3 or 5 years old and still wanting his Ba-ba.  H and I have always parented off of instinct.  We were also blessed with a very independent first child who let us know when he was ready to quit things.  In Little R's case, I'm glad he isn't a thumb sucker, nor does he like pacifiers, so I feel blessed that we are down to 2-3 bottles a day, only before nap and bed time.

“I know…he shouldn’t have a bottle at this point.  I feel awful that he still does,” I explained.  Wow, well that was self-deprecating.

And then my guest scoffed at my embarrassment, “Bah- whatever works for you and yours.”

I could almost here the collective gasps from all my suburban neighbors back in Nova, ready to rattle of a list of reasons/recommendations/judgments as to why “whatever works” is precisely not okay.

But for me, a fifty ton weight was lifted off my shoulders.  Why am I so concerned about how things look or what others think?

It happened again during another visit, with a new family here for the military, when I was chatting about how I think Little P is too over the top for the playgroup, and I feel bad taking him.  I feel like maybe the other moms think him overbearing.  “You probably fit in better than you think!,” she surmised.

Yep, she’s probably right.  And even if she isn’t, what does it matter?  What matters is whatever works for me and my family, and that means getting my boys out to socialize, even when it makes mommy nervous and shy.  It's times like this when I really miss CG (Colorado Girl), because she's like my kindred spirit introvert soul sister.  We get each other so well its scary at times, and she's always the best at encouraging me to follow my gut and get over myself for what's right, or to tell the world to f*&# off if it's appropriate.

Being overseas is just solidifying my opinion that Americans really have overthought and over analyzed things to the point of absurdity.  (Read more about that here.)  We’ve lost all capability to operate off of our instincts, whether romantic or parental or from common sense.  Mothers are constantly comparing themselves to one another or grading themselves off of whatever book they read recently.  Not to mention the obscene levels of judgment shown toward every other women they know.  I mean, obviously my close group of friends are loving and wonderful, but we all frequently discuss the judgment we get from others around us.  Not that we are innocent victims mind you.  I’ve been guilty of this very thing I hate in others, reading about the latest thing to keep a baby happy, then celebrating success for the nanosecond that it works, followed by allowing my ego to inflate to the point where I feel like I can tell everyone else how to do things.  I try, at least, not to do that, and I’m usually too shy to actually speak my thoughts, but it doesn’t make it okay that my internal monologue is lecturing and pontificating like a PhD student.

I recall last year that I ranted about our neighbors who kept their twin girls up much later than we did, and we could hear them crying and fighting to get them to eat dinner at 8 pm….  I was so quick to silently ridicule their schedule, and say “well they just really need sleep” as I smugly enjoyed a drink with my husband.  What I should have realized was that we rarely heard them on Saturday and Sunday mornings, when their girls slept in, probably offering them some precious extra zzzs.  My kids never sleep past 7 am, and rarely past 6:30.

When did Americans become such know-it-alls, in such an amazingly UN-knowledgable and UN-educated way?  When did the encouragement of innovation and individuality and instinct die out?  To each their own right?  I mean we love to throw out cliché after cliché that we claim describes our lives, but in reality most of us are secretly comparing and judging with the rest of them.

And if we aren’t actually being judged, or doing the judging, we all have this nagging inner judgment because we are so paranoid that we are Doing. Everything. Wrong.  That kind of negative thinking puts us on the defensive, and so turns this vicious cycle round and round like a cheap county fair ferris wheel.

The thing that gets to me, though, is that for introverts like me, who already have a hard time fitting in and meeting new friends, this cycle makes us retreat even further into ourselves.  We trust no one.  I’ve been catching myself assuming that I’m unwelcome here because of what I’m used to from back home.  And I know now that it isn’t the case.  So I’m going to try a little harder to come out of my shell.

I’m finding life abroad refreshing.  I feel as independent as ever, because I always have been.  But independence and confidence are two very different things.  Everything happens for a reason.  I think this lifestyle we've chosen is going to bring me new confidence and strength and a renewed faith in humanity because I’m meeting so many wonderful women who have also chosen this crazy life.  And they too, are able to distance themselves and gain a similar perspective that I have.

Whatever works for you and your family.   That's the practical thing to do.  That’s what you should do.  That's what I am going to do.

Love and Happyness to all,

~M

The Jordanians are are open and kind, and love to celebrate.  There is celebratory fireworks (and the occasional celebratory gunfire) to everything from the Eid celebration to the release of the various school exam scores.  The release of exam scores is quite fascinating.  Since the schools are private based, all of them are on slightly different schedules and run from August through May/June, with a few that are even all year I think.  But it isn’t until late July or early August, that the exam scores are released at a stagger across a week or so. This is when families find out how the children faired academically through the previous year.  There are fireworks and gunfire and processionals of cars honking horns and driving in file as they celebrate their success.  The teenagers drive with windows down, music blaring, and celebratory shenanigans ensue.  H and I laugh- there are few constants throughout time and space, and one of those is that of the teenager.

And of course, as many people know of the ME, the driving is horrendous, without rules or laws or lines in the road, and when there are lines in the road they are most definitely arbitrary guidelines per say.

However, the thing that stands out most given our circumstances, is their absolute love of children.  I’ve never been anywhere where my kids were so openly adored in public.  Rather than frowns and scoffs when my boys act like boys and get a bit unruly, I’m greeted with smiles and re-assurance.

Seriously, we had a great demonstration of this just the other day as we were touring the Soap House with Little R on my back and Little P running around crazy.  The soap house is the location of Trinitae- a company specializing in dead sea mineral products.  They hand make everything from bath salts to scrubs and lotions to diffuser oils in a beautiful 100 year old home overlooking downtown.  The boys had been wonderful walking companions during a tour sponsored by the CLO, and I think Little P had had all the behaving he could handle.  He needed to expend some toddler energy, and so, as toddlers are oft to do, he had a burst, not unlike the ones our Australian Shepherd has in the yard.  He ran behind the counter, and into their kitchen, and into the storage room!  He explored the bathroom and ripped the beautifully crafted soap on a rope from the decor.  H and I chased him around, with Little R strapped to my back, red with heat and embarrassment, apologizing between scolding, wishing our group would buy their stuff so we could move on.  But the older gentlemen whose family owns and operates the place just smiled with a twinkle in his eye and said “Ah, it’s safe here, let him run!  Let the little one down, let him run!”  And later, his young attendant just kept laughing at them both, she kept saying “It’s okay, it’s okay!  They are so cute!”

My inner mom, with her apron, oven mitts and firm but gentle smile, who is constantly ridiculing and critiquing my parenting, gauging my aptitude by the behavior of my children, had a hard time wrapping her head around this.  It really is an eye-opening thing, to be somewhere that embraces children as they are- full of attitude, energy and other antics- vice fitting them into a mold involving dance recitals, two year old soccer leagues and impeccable manners.  For the time being I feel like I’m far away from the ridiculing stares in the aisles of the Leesburg Target whenever one of my kids gets too tired or throws a tantrum because I told them, indeed, they do NOT get a toy every time we go to the store, regardless of whether it’s only a dollar.

The Jordanian love of children can be also very overwhelming. When we are in the shopping malls, we are inevitably bombarded with a gaggle of teenage girls who want to kiss and pet and take photos with the Double Troubles.  Little P eats it up, playing shy and blushing at the pretty girls.  Little R, introvert like his mommy, immediately feels the intrusion of his bubble and runs to hide between my legs or behind or wherever he can.  I can only imagine what he’s thinking:  Help!  They’ve come over the walls!  We’re under attack!  The zombie apocalypse is among us!  so I smile and hug him, trying to be as encouraging and serene as I can, because I too am all Get out of my bubble!  They are on the offensive!  It doesn’t help that the Jordanians, and most of the population in the Middle East, are especially fond of blonde haired children, because they are such a rarity.  Needless to say, we don’t take the kids to the mall very often.

Also, since they are so keen on letting kids be kids, I often find that there is little discipline amongst the elementary and middle school set.  You can tell the kids really rule the roost at home, or at least it seems so.  Since it is summer they run around through the night, into the early am, screaming and playing and carrying on, often throwing fits and tantrums from what I can only think is exhaustion, while we are trying to get our kids to sleep through the night!  Thank goodness for the shutters and our white noise phone apps!

Still, as Little P announces a proud “Shukran,” or “Thank you,” to a worker in the little family bakery we found, I realize that I’d take this over the ridicule of the American mommy wars any day.  We love our little bakery- more on that later I promise- where we are always greeted with big smiles and one of the regular employees there gives the boys free cookies and watches as we pick out a box of treats, diligently picking out the cookies Little P points out.  He even gave them cookies during Ramadan, and gave Little R a kiss on the cheek, which I felt was so very kind, given their sacrifices during Ramadan.  They lift their hands and laugh it off when Patrick runs around and grabs breadsticks out of baskets, while I follow him and toss them in the bag to purchase.  Whenever he says “Shukran,” the locals, even the taxi drivers, light up with joy, and you know that they appreciate our efforts to fit in the best we can, fair hair and all!

~M