What Did You Call Me?

Well, here we are. Sweet Baby Violet is just about one year old. The bi-weekly Maternity Leave deposits have dried up and I’m officially not going back into the formal workforce any time soon. So, where does that put me? What am I now? What do I “do”?  

We opened a new bank account today. As part of the application process we were asked for our professions. At home in Canada, it is assumed that a woman with a not-yet-walking baby is on maternity leave. Here in the US, women return to work (exhausted and zombie-like, I assume) mere weeks postpartum (a phenomenon I am incapable of understanding for enough reasons that maybe I will blog about it later). I was in a brief state of Canadian half-bewilderment at the bank rep’s question. Didn’t she see my baby? Of course she did because said baby was flailing herself wildly in my arms, making every attempt to gain access to everything on said bank worker’s desk. Peering over Violet’s unruly body I mumbled something along the lines of “I stay home with our little girl.” The bank representative looked at me knowingly and, with a nod, said, “Homemaker.” 

I let out a little chortle. 

Homemaker! Me? I’m classified in some computer system as “homemaker.”

“Is that okay?” She asked. “Do you mind if I list you like that? Some people get offended. We used to put ‘housewife’ but we had to change that.”

Sure. Whatever. It’s okay. I try not to get too hung up on stuff like that. Just hurry up and finish the account. I can’t protect your stapler from destructo-baby for much longer. 

When we got home, my alleged title of ‘homemaker’ came back to mind. 

The word felt weird. Like wearing someone else’s shoes. Or holding someone else’s baby.

“Hey Tom. Did you know the bank identified me in their database as a ‘homemaker’?”

“Do you mind that?”

“I don’t know. It just doesn’t seem right. (pause) … (pause) I think I prefer ‘stay at home mom’.”

And so, for the umpteenth time in the last 11 months of being a mother, I have been given another reason to grapple with how I’m going to balance being a mom (which is undoubtedly the most demanding, rewarding, precious and important role I’ve ever been assigned) with making sure I feel like a person who is fulfilled, who is contributing and who is living up to her potential. 

Hashtag LifeDilemma 

So, which am I? What am I? Who am I? Let’s see if a quick word association reveals anything about who I think I am: 

Word: Homemaker 

Immediate Association: Cookies / Apron

Word: Stay-at-home-mom

Immediate Association: Stained Shirt / Mini Van

Sure the image of cookies and an apron seems abundantly more appealing than that of the disheveled stay-at-home-mom I conjured up, but I believe it’s the latter that fits me better. When I think about my day with Violet, I’m not ‘home-making.’ If I were making a home, I would be baking things or polishing things or laundering things. Instead, I’m sitting on the floor doing a puzzle. I’m singing remixes of itsy-bitsy-spider to keep Violet from hurling herself onto the floor while I change her diaper. I’m calculating her input of food and output of poop over the last 48 hours.

And, for the most part, I’m loving it. 

Although, sometimes I do make cookies. And my shirt may be stained but I might throw on an apron to cover it up. Does that make me part-homemaker? Maybe. But do I care? Just like before Violet was born, I am a multiplicity. Being a mom is the biggest part of what defines me these days and, for now, I’m going to find my fulfillment and make my contributions through building a solid relationship with my daughter. While the salary’s not great, the payback is huge.

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Valentine’s Cookies…and Added BONUS!

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Violet and I are planning to go to Tom’s office on Valentine’s Day, toting a tray of cookies for his students and coworkers. I envision it as a lovely visit with everyone fawning over Violet and biting into their cookies, remarking on how delicious they are and what an organized and talented domestic goddess I must be. This image is the ideal. The alternative (and what is more likely to happen) is that Violet will be cranky and unhappy for the entire visit and everyone will be forced to lie about their cookies tasting delicious.

In an effort to ensure that next Friday sways further towards the first scenario I described, I did a test-run of my Valentine’s Day sweets and I’m happy to say they turned out okay! Here’s a step-by-step run-down with some tips in case you want to give them a go too!

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– Mix up your favourite batch of chocolate chip cookies – but skip the chocolate chips. (I have decided not to provide the recipe I used because it was not perfect and I plan on using a different recipe for my next attempt.)

– Fill muffin tins about 1/2 full of your cookie mixture. (I went 3/4 full and it was too much. I will be adjusting the quantity next time!)

– Put the cookies in the oven for about 15 minutes.

– Use a spoon to create a crater in the middle, turning the cookie into a little cup. (I also tried using a shot glass to make the impression but too much of the batter stuck to the bottom of the glass. As it is, you’ll have to coat your spoon with “Pam” fairly often to keep things smooth!)

– You might have to take the cookies out every five minutes or so to reinforce your cup – just keep an eye on them and use your judgement until you’re confident the cookies are done and the crater is deep enough.

– Once your cookies cool, fill them with M&Ms or Smarties. (If you’re really keen, you’ll use exclusively red, pink and white candies since it is Valentine’s Day but no one’s going to judge you too harshly if you throw in a blue or yellow.)

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Lastly – as a final safeguard against catastrophe at our Valentine’s visit – I put Valentine pictures of Violet into the cups. (I figure the adorable picture is a perfect distraction against potentially foul-tasting cookie-cups!) I used a template from the Wal-Mart photo website to design simple Valentine’s cards.  I taped a toothpick to the back of each card to stand it in the cup cookie.

Now, I said there was an added bonus to this post! This innovation comes courtesy of my dear husband, Tom. Since these cookies were part of a pilot project, I didn’t bother filling them all with M&Ms. When Tom saw them empty, he immediately decided they should be used for ice-cream so a few nights ago we made tiny ice-cream sundaes in cookie cups and they were divine!

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“Thumbody” in NY *hearts* You!

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I don’t typically make much of February 14th. A red shirt and a little ‘something special’ for the Mister was about as far as I’d ever go. Maybe it’s because this is Violet’s first Valentine’s Day (and maybe it’s because so many of you have hopped onboard with the blog – yay!) but this year our family took on two little Valentine’s Day projects and I’m glad we did! Here’s how we put together our “Thumbody in NY loves you” valentines!

Supplies

Finger Paint (Water, sugar, flour, food colouring)

Paper Cutter

Glue Stick

Sharpie Marker

Stickers (if you’re looking to bump things up a notch)

This project is pretty simple (simple enough to do with an 11 month old!) and I won’t insult your intelligence by providing step-by-step instructions for cutting white paper and glueing it to a red background. I will, however, give you some tips and some info about our experiences with this craft!

Obviously you can make the cards in whatever shapes/colours you please. We picked red for its classic Valentine-ness and I cut the cards in such a way that we could fit them inside leftover envelopes given to us by the extra-zealous WalMart employee who handled our last photo print order.

It was important to me that I make the fingerpaint because I knew some of it would be ingested during the foray into fingerpainting! I tried a couple of recipes. The first one called for cornstarch and that seemed like a good idea because I figured cornstarch would give the paint a nice consistency but I basically ended up with custards in the 4 primary colours which were gelatinous and not paint-like.

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For my second go at the paint I followed this recipe from Momtastic and it was much more successful!

As you can imagine, it took several days to reach the final product. One day, Violet and I cut the papers. Another day we decorated the insides of the cards with stickers.

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On Saturday, I made the paint while Violet played with her dad and later all three of us did our thumbprints. Finally, one evening after bedtime, I drew the faces onto the thumbprints, wrote out the messages and stuffed them into envelopes. The rest is up to the mail carriers! #MelHal

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Heart-Shaped Crayons for Valentine’s Day

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Valentine’s Day goodies have been amped up over the last few years. Gone are the days of punched-out paper cards. Pinterest is full of ideas for moms to flip through… and stress over! The cost of Valentine’s Day adds up when there are 20+ children in your son or daughter’s class.

Two years back I found an inexpensive idea that I made for my oldest son to take to school for his classmates. Last week, I made them again for my 2 year old to take for his friends at daycare.

Here’s What you Need:

Crayons – You will need a bunch of old crayons, which is great because we all have a container of crayons that are dull/broken and the kids don’t use anymore. (* I store ours in an old Huggies wipes container.)

Silicon Heart-Shaped Muffin Pan – Get one at the dollar store because you won’t be able to use it for anything edible afterwards. (*I bought two to make the process go quicker.)

Knife – Needed to cut the crayons. (*Watch out for kiddies’ fingers!) 

Bamboo Skewer – This is optional but it’s nice to have some help when you’re peeling the wrapping off of this many crayons. (*You could use a utility knife but I had little hands helping so that option was out. The bamboo skewer was enough to do the initial rip but not risk anyone’s fingertips!)  

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A Few Warnings…

  • Do not attempt this project with a fresh manicure.

  • Set aside a good hour (minimum) to complete this craft.

  • Be aware that your helpers might not last long. My kids got bored after they broke 10 crayons and realized there were a billion more to do.

Here’s How:

  • Peel crayons and chop or break them into chunks. (*I tried chopping and breaking to see if the quality of the crayon was different. NOPE! Save yourself the time and break them.)

  • Fill muffin molds 3/4 full. (We mixed colours but you can do a solid colour, if you prefer.)

  • Place muffin mold on a cookie tray. (This just makes it easier to handle when they are full of hot, runny wax later on.)

  • Bake at 250 degrees for 10-15mins, checking often. Once the wax has melted, they’re ready to be taken out!

  • Keep out of reach of children while they cool. They look very inviting to little ones but they’re extremely hot and dangerous!

  • The crayons flip out of the molds very easily once they’ve cooled!

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Once your crayons are done, you can package them in any variety of ways (bag them with tags/stick them on a piece of card stock). You can include a little slogan with them too. Like…

– “Valentine, you colour my world!”

– “Colour your heart out!”

– “Wishing you a colourful Valentine’s Day!”

– “Have a Happy Valentine’s Day for Crayon Out Loud!”

– “You make my heart melt!”

Enjoy! I made them for a second time, so it’s not too tough of a project! #MelMarImage