The New Normal of My Mother’s Day

The New Normal of My Mother’s Day

Mother’s Day is almost here. I’m happy and sad all wrapped into one, with sprinkles of mad on top.

It’s been two years since I lost my mother. It’s been two years since I saw her and could talk to her. I have learned so much about myself in those two years … and I can’t tell her. Well, I can. I talk to her nearly every day. I sort of throw conversations out to the universe and pretend that she is sitting next to me, nodding and chuckling along.

I tell her that I miss her, I love her and I am sorry.

I miss talking to her, texting her and tagging her in weird memes I saw on Facebook. I want to tell her all about how Dad is doing, so I do. When I am alone, I talk. Dad is ok, I tell her, he’s even drinking more water. I say, I’m working on a project with him and spending all this time with him has made the both of us happy, though, we are very tired.

I tell her how the boys are doing. Hank has really flourished in his new life, I explain, he has calmed and finds peace in his every day and brings it to me, too. Dave is one hell of a young man, he’s on his self-made path that will take him into a successful adulthood.

I want to tell her that I am sorry. I had been in a relationship where there was not a lot of sense of control. I want to tell her that I left. That I removed the toxicity and have started to heal the relationships with those who truly love me. I’m sorry that I allowed for someone to put up walls between us. I want to tell her I am proud of myself and know that she is, too.

As I started a rewrite of my book this year, I realized I am writing this new version of 10 Little Rules of Hank to her. I know if she was here, she’d be the first person to read it, as she was when I released the first version. She was the biggest supporter of my writing, in fact, she has always been a supporter to anything that I did.

She believed in me.

I know she would be pleased to know I have been going into more detail, with more resources to help others – branching out from just writing for myself as I did for the first version. I want to embody her approach to nurture others through comfort and love. I will be more like her in this second phase of my life.

From my new dedication:

My mom was a Finn through and through. Many of my strengths, along with the courage to just say, “Fuck it, I’m doing it,” came from watching her navigate through life. She and I had a bond where I was careful what I thought about around her, because you better believe, she could hear it…

Momala, I’m sorry, but I did swear in print… Love you.

Miss you.

Click here to preorder a copy of Wendy’s Revised 10 Little Rules of Hank.

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Squirrels Need More Pockets

Squirrels Need More Pockets

When you think about how to make your home safe for children, you think about sharp corners, outlets and stairs. When you have a child with severe allergies, you look to your pantries, beauty products and cleaning supplies. Something that you may not think about are squirrels. Yeah, squirrels. Those cute little furry rodents carry all sorts of stuff, only to drop them all over the place.

We have this neighbor who feeds the squirrels. I don’t mean that he leaves a peanut or two out for the squirrels, but that he has made his entire backyard into a squirrel city. There are squirrel homes, cameras aimed into the squirrel homes and lights that is reminiscent of a red-light district. It is a bit much. His backyard is fenced, but some of the cameras and the tires and the houses and random junk meant to be a squirrel playground, loom over the fence line.

Unfortunately, we didn’t know that this odd zoo was a neighbor when we bought the place. Just like we didn’t know that peanuts and their shells carried over to our yard would be an issue for us until after we had Hank. We certainly didn’t know that squirrels don’t have pockets. Ok, we knew that, but like, seriously. They drop nearly everything; I am convinced that they are the reason why I have an abundance of wild raspberries.

When we realized what an issue the peanuts were, I did talk to the neighbor. I was met with a shrug.

Since then, I’ve heard stories from other neighbors that he has been feeding and providing squirrel love nests for at least 35 years. I guess every neighborhood has that *one* neighbor, right?

Because of our neighbor’s love of nature, we worked with Hank when he was younger to make sure that he knew what a peanut shell looked like and to not touch it. I take care to do checks in the yard to pick up any shells/nuts that have been carried over from one of his squirrel children.

It really just goes to show you, when you think that you have it all under control, a squirrel could change everything.

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Oh. Em. PEE. – the Stench That Launched a New Hobby

Oh. Em. PEE. – the Stench That Launched a New Hobby

For the past few weeks, I have been taking the carpet cleaner to the second level of my home. Like, really giving the carpet up there a ‘what for’. There is a smell in my house and I don’t like it. Actually, I don’t like a lot of things in this situation. I don’t like going upstairs, it is the boy’s area and frankly, it just smells. I hate the smell of their bathroom. I hate the smell of the carpet. I strongly dislike boy funk. Before I lugged the machine up there, I thought that the smells of rotting pee (that, for some reason, I was the ONLY one who can smell it) were from the boy’s bathroom. I constantly used the Alexa to ask someone, anyone, I don’t care if it wasn’t you, but please flush that toilet!

But the smell never went away.

I went upstairs and I scrubbed their bathroom for them. Normally, this is Dave’s job and one that he doesn’t take very seriously. I took an afternoon and was very serious about it. I made that room sparkle. But, the very next day, OMFeta, the smell!

I’m not going to claim super smarts here. I mean, the fact that I have to medicate my sweet pupper, Libby, for incontinence and that my house was smelling like pee never seemed to connect in my frazzled brain. Until the gross day when it did. See, upstairs, in the hallway, there is a long nook area. It is meant to house a few desks, I believe. There is task lighting built-in, multiple outlets and switches. I always used it as a place to store kid’s toys. There is a cubby area and a soft *grass like* rug.

The day had been a bit humid when I smelled the smell that finally got so bad that even the hubs started to notice it. I worked with the kids to remove all the toys, get them into bins and move out the furniture and remove the cozy rug. The cozy, pee-stained, rug. The staining on the carpet underneath was disgusting. There are no washing instructions on the rug. I guess that IKEA assumed that it would not be used as an old lady pupper pee pad. But it was and out to the garage it went.

Over multiple days and two and a half bottles of carpet cleaner (according to the bottles, each were enough to do two large rooms apiece), I turned about 20’x8’ of disgusting into the cleanest carpet in the entire house.

The smell was starting to go away. I mean, no one else could smell it, but I think that it is engraved into my nose memory, because even when I go outside, I can smell it.

But I had a thought, why stop there? I have decided that pulling gross water from my carpets my be my new 2021 hobby. Forget the Banana Bread of 2020, this hot new, still in quarantine, hobby is Carpet Cleaning.

I made Dave clean his room. I mean, really clean his room. We reorganized with a new bookcase that would actually hold his books, and a new closet organizer to allow him to store his gaming stuff. Everything got vacuumed like it was the first time. Then, I roared with my Rug Doctor and together, the Dr and I washed his floor. We did it over a series of a few days, and gave it a total of four passes with soap and once with just the water. In the end, Dave was begging for his room back, the carpet looked amazing, but was still pulling out slightly dirty water.

After I put everything back into Dave’s room, Hank caught me in his room, looking around. The Dr stood in the doorway, blocking him from his own room. Hank’s room is next. I fully believe that whereas his room doesn’t really smell like anything more than little boy sweat, that his carpet is going to be a treasure trove of dirty. I am excited to tackle his room. Next, the stairs, then the library, then the main floor hall, and then, and then…

The day that I run out of carpet, I am going to have to either find a new hobby or start all over.

As for that cozy, grass like, snuggly, perfectly soft, pee rug? I may tackle it later. Maybe in the dead of summer, when the sun is at it highest and the hose water is at it’s coldest. I may lay it out on the driveway and stare at it, with my iced coffee in hand, and just will it to stop being gross by the power of a mom’s glare.  Or maybe, I’ll just learn the lesson and pitch it.

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Sunshine and Stained Glass

Sunshine and Stained Glass

I remember when I was a kid, I had a friend, whose mom made stained-glass in their basement. I remember going over to their house and looking at the glass and thinking how ugly it was. She made stuff that seemed dark and dreary. Browns and dark muddy colors. Now, as an adult, I understand the beauty of a rich brown with light coming through it. The cocoas, the coke colored and the brownie lit by the sun. But as a kid, I just didn’t get it. To me, then, it was exactly what the basement of someone else’s house looked like: dark, damp and old.

When quarantine first started, there was a Facebook group for Michigan called Rainbows Across Michigan. People were drawing rainbows on their windows and sharing them with the group. They were providing light to those who needed it. I joined the group, but would never draw on my windows: first, I don’t want to have to clean that off at some point (laziness?) and second, I need my windows and my light. My house faces the south, I get gorgeous light in the afternoon that is strong enough to warm my home. Afternoons, sitting on the couch in the sun, drinking an iced coffee with my book are pretty much what I dream perfection to be like. I can’t block those windows.

But I wanted rainbows, I NEEDED rainbows.

I started searching Etsy for rainbows and found a … stained-glass shop. But this shop didn’t have the long-ago lampshades of yore. It didn’t have large, heavy browns, dark green and tan window panes. They had beautiful rainbow triangles, rectangles partnered with Mr. Roy G. Biv and small pieces, splashed with colors that I love. I bought one. I bought a bright, happy rectangle with all the colors of the rainbow.

I hung it up in my front window and immediately thought, Oh No! It is too small! Which is funny since I *didn’t* want anything to block my precious sun.

Afternoons became brighter with colors floating through the room. But I wanted more. I wanted more colors. I went back on Etsy and hearted a ton more. I needed these. For Mother’s Day, my husband (my wonderful, mindreading husband) found the same ones that I loved and bought me two more. A rectangle with a few colors to make a rainbow and a Black Lives Matter fist in deep purples that look like an oily rainbow when the light hits it. They were gorgeous. Absolutely perfect.

BUT THEN!

I was hanging out on Kick Starter and found a campaign for window rainbows. This maker made clear glass prisms that you fill with distilled water and when the sun shines on it, they cast rainbows around the room. And it does! It hangs in the window next to the triangle.

I now have 5 pieces of stained-glass (I added a grumpy looking blue bird) in my home and I am delighted by how happy they make me. Seeing the colors on a day-to-day basis never fails to make me smile and think happy thoughts. Since they project their light into my home (and in different places throughout the day), I am always seeing them – they have not become flat pictures on the wall that begin to blend in, with time, to the wall itself.

I find myself thinking about those stained-glass pieces of my childhood and wondering where those ended up. I never saw them in the windows of that friend’s house and I wonder if I had, maybe I would have fallen in love with stained-glass then. As I am typing the view I have, besides my monitor is my neighbors house and I think that my view could be improved drastically with a new window pane, filled with chocolates, dark greens and other rich hues. Excuse me, I feel the need to click back over to Etsy.

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Ugly is Life, Too

Ugly is Life, Too

Instagram is fun. There are beautiful people, clothing, children, flowers, food, lives – BEAUTIFUL EVERYTHING! But the ugly is also there, we just don’t show it.

Well, guess what? I’m going to show it.

As I type this both boys are grounded.
Both currently think that I am awful.

But they seem so perfect!?

They are, but they are also KIDS.

Dave is nearly a teen. He is exploring his world and his limits – seeing how far he can push his reality and in so, he is lying to his parents. This is the second time in the last 20 days where he has been caught mid lie. The first time, he was caught doing something dangerous, something that I had told him multiple times not to do. I called him on it, he denied, I recalled what was seen, he doubled down on his lie and then got mad when he realized that he had been caught and was getting into trouble. Two weeks of grounding. I was all set to explain why what he did was unsafe and to talk about alternatives. But he lied to me.

Seriously, tell me that you did something wrong, own it. Don’t lie. I keep stressing to my kids that being lied to is an awful feeling, no matter how small the lie. I tell them – I will always ground you for lying, even if I wouldn’t necessarily ground you for the actions that you lied about.

This time, he told his brother something that was hurtful – about me. Hank came to me about it. Not a big deal. However, when I asked Dave about it, he denied. I asked him if he wanted to take a second to think about what he wants to actually say to me and start it over. He admitted to the lie. Again, everything is easy to navigate. No problem is unsurmountable, but the lying is something that needs to stop now before it becomes a habit that he can’t break.

Hank, on the other hand has decided to take a small hiatus from school. Like, apparently, quite a long one. Homeboy has not been working on his cursive writing, to the point where he is several letters behind and the letters are now a foreign language. He has also not been doing his work with class, but instead, turning it in with question marks dotting the page. All those breaks that we had been taking walks on? Well, it turns out that, those aren’t breaks.

Well. Gold star for mom, right?

Both kids are grounded. Meaning, no electronics. No Switch, no tablets, no handheld gaming systems, no Alexa reading their books. We’re now all living on the prairie with self-entertainment – with real books! Paper ones. And conversation. Educational conversation about how to be good humans.

It isn’t easy being a parent. It isn’t easy being a kid. It isn’t easy teaching and learning life lessons. But it is our duty to do so. And you know what? It IS Instagram worthy, even if there isn’t a glitter filter to soften the message.

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I’ll Take The Cake, Please!

I’ll Take The Cake, Please!

Please be aware that if you purchase something from one of my links, I may be receiving a compensation through the vender.

The Four Tops sang it better than I could ever write it:

Sugarpie honeybunch
You know that I love you
I can’t help myself….

Honestly and truly, as much as I add fruits and veggies and hide them, and manipulate them into places not expected, they are not as a big of a hit as sweets with Hank (and frankly, Dave and me, too). After being on the verge of failure to thrive for so long, you better believe your pancakes and jelly, I’ll make that brownie or cake or cookie.

Just like I said on the bread post, I like mixes better than mixing my own flour blend. Even with careful measuring, I never seem to get them right. So, if I am not using a box mix for something, then I am using premix gluten free flour. And again, for us, we are looking for wheat free, which is different than gluten, however, gluten is found in wheat.

A party without cake is just a meeting. – Julia Child

I love cake. Like, I L.O.V.E. it. Because I love it, cake was one of the first things that I tried to make Hank-safe. In the beginning, we had eliminated so many foods that we couldn’t use box mixes, so we fell in love with Depression Cake, or Wacky Cake. This cake was a Great Depression invention to deliver deliciousness within the limitation of lack of supplies. This cake doesn’t need dairy or eggs and works well with alternative flours.

Hank and I worked on this recipe from Budget Byte$ today and we loved this interpretation of this classic recipe. We subbed out the all-purpose flour with our favorite gluten free version. Happily, the substitution is a one to one, so we didn’t even have to do math to do the changeover (yay!). If you are able to have nuts or seeds, both add a lovely crunch and added flavor profile. Many recipes have raisins, this adds not only flavor but also just a bit of extra moistness that will bring a smile to your face.

Whereas, Hank has eaten this cake multiple times before, this was his first time making it with me. He smelled the cocoa powder, and decided that it wasn’t going to be sweet without the added ingredients. He smelled the vinegar and *almost* changed his mind about the whole thing. Once the batter was mixed, he got to taste the raw batter and was SHOCKED that it didn’t taste like pickles.

To top off this beautiful dessert, the recipe that we followed has a simple chocolate icing using water, rather than milk. Normally, I would use coconut milk, but we followed with the water and we didn’t even notice the lack of coconut fat. It was divine.

Overall, we loved it and in fact, both boys launched a scheme to try to get a piece for breakfast. And morning snack. And lunch dessert. And afternoon snack. And, of course, after dinner.

BUT WHAT IF we don’t have time for the whole prep and just NEED cake in 30 minutes? We use King Arthur Flour brand Gluten Free Chocolate Cake.  Happily, it also comes in yellow cake, which is also very good.

BUT WHAT IF WE NEED CAKE IN THE NEXT 30 SECONDS?! Please don’t judge, we all have these days where we need cake and need it now. Well, King Arthur Flour to the rescue again with cookies and brownies in a cup. Just add water and nuke in the microwave, super easy.

Life is short, and it is up to you to make it sweet. – Sarah Louise Delany

How do you top your cake? A simple and elegant with powder sugar in a pretty pattern? Tub frosting? Duncan Hines has worked well, as long as we double check the ingredients – these usually contain soy and for us, we need to watch for caramel color as that can be made from barley.

I normally use a twist on the standard butter cream:

4 Cups of powder sugar
1 Cup butter alternative – I use Earth Balance
2-3 Tsp of vanilla extract
1-2 Tbsp of milk – I use coconut milk

Mix and love.

From this basic recipe, you can change the whole taste of the cake. Sub out the vanilla extract with ANY OTHER extract or… juice. Fresh lime and lemon bring a fresh take on a yellow cake. Fresh raspberries mushed and mixed makes a chocolate cake absolutely sinful. I especially love adding Sunbutter to my frosting along with cocoa powder for a chocolate “peanut butter” dream.

If you mix your frosting and it seems like it is too watery, add more sugar. If you mix too much (GASP!) just bag it, label it, and freeze it.

With Hank’s birthday coming up, I have a request to make a gingerbread cake. I can’t wait.

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What if we loved ourselves?

What if we loved ourselves?

This week, I was hanging out on Facebook and saw in one of my groups, a woman who had taken her book outside to read. She was sitting, prettily, in a lawn chair on her porch with a huge smile on her face. She wore a dress with flip flops. She looked happy and frankly, excited about the book in her hand. The snow around her would have been up to Hank’s knees. There was a child in the background, in full snow suit, playing in the snow.

She captioned the photo that she was going to be outside reading while in the middle of a hot flash. She ended her comment that she looked like a whale.

I was so happy for her until that last line. In fact, it made my tummy drop. I immediately responded that I hoped that she enjoyed her book and that she was beautiful.

Why do we do this? Why do we allow ourselves to be so rotten to ourselves? I have looked at my stomach and my stretchmarks and belittled myself. Why? I don’t usually care what other people think about my appearance, but I really care about how I think. I know that my body housed two + children and has walked me miles, has treated me with care, but I look at myself and think about my faults.

What if we looked at ourselves and are thankful to those stretch marks? Our bodies expanded to allow for babies to grow. Or our bodies expanded to allow for more of us to love? How amazing is it that our skin does that for us?

What if we look at those added pounds and dismiss them? I’m not saying that being unhealthy is amazing, but not every pound over our “ideal” number is a pound of awful.

What if we look at our curves and be grateful that we have them? What if we look at our straight lines and love them for what they are? What if we look at our puckers, scars and blemishes and just shrug and move on?

What if we tell ourselves that we’re allowed to take that selfie and post it without adding a disclaimer to the world that we know of our faults?

And to those who may decide that they need to point out anything that they feel make us less than perfect? What if we let them go along with our own feelings of discontentment?

What if we choose to be happy with ourselves?

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How to Bread, Allergen Free

How to Bread, Allergen Free

I’ve been asked a few times about how I feed my family and what are our standard go-to products, so I am going to release several blog posts about just that. In this one, I’m going to concentrate on being WHEAT free. Not necessarily, gluten free, but wheat free. I am very, very grateful to those who are allergic to gluten. Without those wonderful eaters, we wouldn’t have as much alternatives at our disposal. The double edge sword is a thing: I hate that they have to eat that way, I love that we can jump aboard.

Please be aware that if you purchase something from one of my links, I may be receiving a compensation through the vendor.

Oh man, how I love bread. I used to be the girl who filled up on the bread basket at restaurants, who fought for the first slice of my mom’s freshly baked loaves, who would just be happy to eat bread and butter as a meal. Oh, my first love, bread, how I miss you.

But I don’t really. We have really great substitutes. We can purchase wheat free at the store, but we still need to take a microscope to the ingredients list. We are avoiding so many items that even though it doesn’t have wheat, it could not be safe.

Pre-made store bought bread

For sandwich bread, I love that I don’t have to make the bread from scratch. I have and have mixed my own flours to do so, but I didn’t get the bread making gene that my mom has and it was apparent when we took the first bite. So, I am very pleased that I can order pre-made breads. Our main stays are:

Schar Gluten Free Artisan Baker White Bread, 2 Count: this bread is soft but dense enough to put up with Hank’s dairy free butter, even when cold. Depending on what you need to avoid, this company has a full range of gluten free options that taste great and are kid approved. Buns, baguettes and crackers are amazing and all available through Amazon and our local grocer.

Katz Gluten Free Cinnamon Raisin English Muffins | Dairy, Nut and Gluten Free | Kosher (6 Packs of 4 Muffins, 11 Ounce Each): These English muffins also come in plain, however are currently unavailable through Amazon. Hank loves these with his dairy free butter. I have used them as hamburger buns, sandwich buns and they always get dissected so that he can eat the parts of the meal that he likes, separately. The Katz company has a full range of breads and desserts/snacks, including cupcakes, filled cakes and doughnuts. As we are able to (if we are able to) add additional ingredients, I am hopeful that we can introduce more from this company as they are delicious.

Again, read the label. I once bought gluten free ready-to-bake pizza crust and double checked that there wasn’t egg, milk or pea protein that I didn’t even see that it contained orange juice. Guess what? Hank is allergic to oranges, like – instant vom. I had gotten that sucker home and was so excited to use it and had the hubs double check and there it was: Orange juice. Boo.

Make your own bread

I’ve made my own bread before using my oven as well as a bread maker. Again, I didn’t get the magical bread making gene from my mother, but I have made *passable* bread by using the bread recipes in the book Learning to Bake Allergen-Free: A Crash Course for Busy Parents on Baking without Wheat, Gluten, Dairy, Eggs, Soy or Nuts.

Colette Martin is an amazing author but also a food allergy mom. She gets it. In her book, she gives tips and encouragement about moving into this new normal of living and cooking. She also teaches how to mix your own flour blends and shares tried and true recipes for everything from the basic bread to scones and doughnuts. She also gives you dairy free options and substitutions.

My best suggestion while using this book and mixing your own flours for other recipes is to measure by grams. I love the Cuisinart Weight Mate Digital Kitchen Scale. It is compact – which means easy to store off my counters. Since bread making is a magical endeavor (ok, not magic, but science), it is important that you measure by weight and not by cup, if the measurement isn’t exact you will get a Pinterest-worthy fail. Trust me, I’ve done it all. My favorite was the raw and runny middle with the burnt outside. That was a special day.

Now, since I don’t love mixing my own flour. I’d rather use a premix blend. My favorite flour is King Arthur Flour, Measure for Measure Flour, Certified Gluten-Free, Non-GMO Project Verified, Certified Kosher, 3 Pounds (Packaging May Vary). Actually, I quite love King Arthur all together. When I post about sweets and mixes, I’ll have a whole section devoted to King Arthur.

As with anything, if you have multiple allergies like we do, check the label, call the company, and observe for any reactions.

Future blog posts will include pasta and sweets for being wheat free, I’ll also start pulling together our other favorite substitutes for dairy and eggs. Is there something that you want to know about? Drop me a message through Instagram or Facebook!

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