Anniversaries as parents to little kids are hard. For our eleventh last week, I was content to do our usual romantic take out from That Place That’s Good, But Not Too Expensive, You Know, The One You Ordered From Last Year? But nay. This boy, he’s a romantic, even if he does preface the evening by saying, “I took you to the Driskill last year. This one’s on you.” Swoon!
Planning date nights stresses me out. We’ve never hired a babysitter for a few reasons. One, they cost money, and I wasn’t prepared to double the cost of our dinner by having someone sit on our couch and watch Project Runway* while the kids slept. Two, I just have this thing about people I don’t know being in my house? I’m weird like that. And three, finding someone I could trust to hang here would be a challenge, and if this is your first time here on this blog, hello, my name is Leigh Ann and I am lazy.
Back in the days we call BZ (Before Zoe), we had a good run of date nights. We would swap with my friend Vanessa, who has twin boys just days older than the girls. Since our kids all went to bed at 7, we would trade nights about once a month, and we’d pay in ice cream. Teenage babysitters should really think about accepting this type of deal if they want more business.
But now it feels intrusive to ask a friend to leave their family on a weekend evening to come sit at our house. We don’t even have cable. Plus, I would have to clean, and well, see above. LAZY. So I did what any mom whose husband was offering a night out would do: I Facebook messaged my friend Lori (LORI!) and begged her to take my children for a slumber party type gathering while Christian and I hit the town. I promised it would be “fun (with extra !!!)!” I promised we wouldn’t stay out late. I promised reciprocation. I sweated while she clearly tried to pretend she hadn’t seen my request, despite having JUST answered that her Saturday evening was wide open.
And finally…”I’d love to!” It sounded forced, as forced as words can seem on a screen, but I didn’t care. I took it.
It was a perfect Austin evening, so naturally, everyone and their dog (literally, this is a very dog friendly town) was trying to sit on a patio somewhere. Saturday evening dining is hard enough in this city without the prerequisite of fresh air.
After a few “Oh, an hour? Fuck that – I mean, no thank yous,” we settled on Kona Grill in the Domain. There was no wait. We sat in a ridiculously large booth, big enough for 6, and took silly pictures of each other. No cat GIFs were had, unfortunately. The food was amazing, and then we celebrated with cake balls and milled around the Domain until the stores closed. At 9. Our night owl tendencies astound.
Anniversaries have changed. Or have we? It’s not that we can’t hang with the raucous night crowd, it’s just that we don’t really want to. We declined second beers because we are lightweights, and we still had kids to pick up and put to bed. And don’t you know, childless waiter, that hangovers and 6:30 a.m. don’t really mix, and my husband has to go help his boss load furniture into storage pods tomorrow morning, and OH MY GOD we are so old we are lamenting hangovers we don’t even have.
The food was amazing. The company was better. The cake balls were the best. H&M was underwhelming. We picked up the kids a little after 9 p.m. and had them home in bed in no time. Eleven years in the bag.
*I have no idea what they would watch. We don’t have cable. They’re stuck with Netflix documentaries, I’m afraid. Babysitters, line up!
September in Austin is absolute torture. We’ve left behind the sweltering months of June, July, and August, and my brain is telling me it should be cooler, but my skin is reminding me that it’s still a hundred million degrees out.
Then one day, when we least expect it, we wake up to find it cool and crisp. And we can open the windows for the first time in 4 months, except that time in June when I horribly burned that popcorn and had no choice because burnt popcorn is the WORST especially when the smell is embedded in all of your couch cushions.
And when the children feel the cool, crisp air, they sense the shift is seasons has finally come. Rachel will insist on wearing the long sleeved shirt that’s been sitting in the drawer for weeks – the new one, the one with the kittens on it, and Claire will declare that it’s Halloween and demand we go get pumpkins this instant.
The so called lazy days of summer have been gone for a few weeks now. School is in full swing, and we’re adjusting accordingly. Now also gone are the days where we don’t dare go outside for fear of melting or getting third degree burns from the fake leather car interior. Gone is the swimming, the all too frequent ice cream trips, and soon the mosquitoes, GOD, THE MOSQUITOES.
I know the heat will return before the cool is here to stay. But I also know that we’ve had our last glimpse of summer.
Banana Muffins You’ll Want to Make Out With
Banana Muffins, Get in Mah Belleh!
HolyShitThisIsGood Banana Muffins
Sorry, I Ate All the Streusal with a Fork
I think this is the first recipe I’ve ever posted on this blog, and depending on how well it’s received, it may very well be the last. But who doesn’t love banana muffins? Probably lots of people.
I hated bananas and banana bread until I had babies and all of the sudden we were chock full of bananas up in here. I made banana bread for years, and it was good, but then I tweeked my recipe to banana muffins, and BOOM. That’s the sound of your taste buds exploding.
A conversation between my husband and his boss:
Christian: There is a banana muffin on your desk courtesy of Mrs. Torres
Boss [again]: Thank her for me.
Boss [still]: I am starving. This will help.
Boss: OMG this muffin is amazing.
See? Brought a grown man to his knees, these muffins did.
Banana muffins with streusal topping
AKA The Best Banana Muffins You Will Ever Put in Your Mouth with Amazing Streusal Topping You May Try to Eat with a Fork.
- 2 cups all purpose flour
- 1 teaspoon baking soda
- 1/4 teaspoon salt
- 1/2 cup (1 stick) butter, softened
- 3/4 cup brown sugar
- 2 eggs
- 2 cups mashed bananas
- 1/2 cup all purpose flour
- 1/4 cup packed brown sugar
- 1/2 stick unsalted butter
- 1/2 teaspoon ground cinnamon
Preheat oven to 350 degrees. Pat yourself on the back – you’re almost done!
Combine flour, baking soda, and salt in a large bowl and set aside. if you have young kids helping you, set it FAR ASIDE because for some reason they think flour is mighty tasty. Know this: if you’ve had baked goods from the Torres household, it’s likely had little fingers in it. I don’t stress about it because a) they’ve washed their hands, and b) it all cooks out in the oven right?
Okay, where was I? Right. Setting aside the flour.
In a separate bowl (I use my Kitchenaid stand mixer) cream together the butter and the brown sugar. This is where I let my kids have a tiny taste because I’ve convinced them that tasting it after the eggs are added will make them horribly sick.
Now add in the eggs and mashed bananas and mix until well blended.
Add wet mixture to your flour mixture and stir just until well moistened. Related: I hate the word moist and any derivation of it.
Pour into prepared muffin tin. I use a jumbo muffin tin (makes 6 at a time) lined with jumbo liners. You should still have some batter left after the first batch. It makes about 8 or 9 muffins. I love the jumbo muffins because they leave you pretty satisfied, meaning you won’t go back for slice after slice like I may do with banana bread in loaf form.
Now for the streusal. Combine all ingredients in a bowl. I don’t have a food processor, so I use a fancy kitchen tool known as a FORK. If you are advanced like me, you’ll want your butter softened. Hard butter is difficult to smoosh to proper streusal consistency. I’ll even head in there with my (freshly washed!) fingers for a little more smooshing.
Sprinkle streusal evenly over muffin tops, reserving some for the muffins you’ll need to bake after these are done (if you still have batter leftover, which you should).
Plop muffins in oven for…I have no idea. Usually about 30 minutes.
Enjoy some warm, sweet, banana-y goodness smeared with a good dose of butter.
Storing your muffins
Your muffins will get moist (gah! There’s that word again!) and soggy if you keep them in an airtight container. To keep the streusal nice and crispy (and to avoid that feeling that your eating a wet muffin), just cover them with a dishtowel and store them on your countertop. Ours usually only last through the next day, so it’s not an issue. If you must contain them, place them in a plastic container with a paper towel underneath and on top to help soak up some of the moisture. Happy eating!
One the day that Rachel and Claire started kindergarten, Zoe was infinitely disappointed that she still had to wait another week and 2 days to go to mother’s day out. For weeks she had been telling anyone and everyone that she was going to preschool.
In that week before her big day, I brought it up for the gazillionth time. Next week you go to preschool! And a shadow of doubt flickered across her face, as if she’d been so excited, but now shit was getting real.
I’ve never worried about Zoe. We’ve always had a running joke about her. Thank God for Zoe! we’d say, as she sat content in a stroller at 6 months while I attempted park playdates with her sisters. Thank God for Zoe! we’d mutter as she dutifully put her shoes on herself while we were still doing most of the work for the other two. Thank God for Zoe! we’d laugh as she stayed put while the others took off in two different directions.
But her sisters have something she doesn’t: each other. Every step of their development, they’ve been together. When they entered preschool they were in the same class. Their last year they were separated, and remain that way now in kindergarten, but they see each other on the playground and know the other is just across the hall.
So as preschool loomed for her, I began worry a little that she would be alone, although in reality, she’d be having the same experience as the majority of the kids. Because apparently not everyone goes to school with a look alike best friend by their side.
And as she skipped in on the first day the staff welcomed her with open arms and did the usual remarking on Look how big you’ve gotten! and How can it already be time for you to come here? And I agree. Time has flown since she rode through the hall like a boss in a cheap umbrella stroller with a bent wheel that was a bitch to push while I simultaneously attempted to keep her sisters from running out the front door and carried two sets of craft projects. Still wet.
I prepped for some clinginess, half knowing I wouldn’t need that preparation. This one, she’s not like the others. She’s not shy. She makes friends everywhere she goes. Other kids are naturally attracted to her magnetic energy and her personality that’s as bouncy as her curls. She reacts to them with welcoming smile that says Let’s play! And she’s seriously cute.
Who is this kid, this little extrovert? Where did she come from? Where did she learn that confidence that of course this is going to be awesome, because I am awesome, and of course everyone will like me, because why wouldn’t they? I watch her and realize I can learn so much from her confidence. And as I walk away, I can’t help but shake my head a little and laugh to myself that old familiar phrase.
Thank God for Zoe.
This past weekend we took a little afternoon trip to…the Texas State Cemetery. Because we are super fun people like that.
Actually, it was for an article I was writing on Free Fun in Austin. I needed to check it out, take some photos, basically so I could fake being an expert on it. It’s what we writers do.
The girls scampered in the grass that was NOT filled with the graves of war heroes and famous Texans. We paused at the ponds, looking for fish. It was a hot day, but the beautiful cemetery was mostly shaded. The atmosphere exuded peace and serenity, like cemeteries always know to do.
I saw the structure out of my peripheral a few times as we roamed the grounds. A trio of seniors – the citizens, not the students – paused at it and caught my attention, and that’s when I finally realized what I had been doing large circles around all this time: a 9/11 Memorial that I didn’t even know was here.
I had done a little research on the cemetery. I knew whose graves I wanted to find, but I didn’t even know this existed. I decided to make it my last stop after completing my morbid headstone checklist.
History stood here. I walked around the beams and touched the twisted metal that was hot from the sun, not hot from raging fires. What once was a mess of wreckage was now a magnificent memorial to lives lost.
I sank into one of the granite benches built into the surround. And I cried. I cried for the lives lost, for the terror and the trauma, and for the devastation that the salvaged beams represented. I thought about the images I had seen on the news: thousands of missing persons signs that covered every wall, window, and lamppost in Manhattan near Ground Zero afterwards; and a silly piece about a couple who went to reclaim their belongings that had been in WTC safe deposit boxes. Thousands of lives lost, and the wife was disappointed that her pearls had become mishapen.
I wondered when in the future this day would move from a day of remembrance to something that just happened.
I sat and I sobbed, and I was grateful that Christian had taken the hot, tired, and cranky children back to the entrance for some shade. My tears mixed with the sweat that was running down my face, because it’s still damn hot here in September.
And then I collected myself and walked over to meet my family. I sat down on a bench next to my husband, my big sunglasses masking my red, puffy eyes. The kids would freak if they saw me crying.
We’re entering week three of kindergarten and week two of preschool, and I still haven’t settled into a routine. I didn’t expect it to happen right away, but we’ve had some hiccups along the way, like Claire being sick the two days after Labor Day and Zoe, the world’s tiniest dictator, being with me the first week and every Tuesday/Thursday.
So knocking on wood that everyone will remain healthy and go to school as planned in the coming week, but I still fear my own disorganization will get in the way of any productivity. I have deadlines coming up, blog posts I want to write, things I need to do around the house, and things I just plum want to do because I’m a grown up and I can do whatever I want, dammit!
Things I need to do
Meal plan (my least favorite, so if you have any good Pinterest dinner boards, leave me the link in the comments!)
Clean kids rooms/clear out old toys and clothes
Clean my room/clear out junk
Clean splatters off kitchen walls
I should probably just put “set fire to the house” on the list.
Things I want to do
Write a million blog posts about stuff that crosses my mind when I’m normally bogged down with kids
Hunt for the perfect pair of jeans
Finish Orange is the New Black and start on Doctor Who
Check out the “new” H&M store that I still haven’t visited even though it opened almost a year ago
Read a book
NAP (because I really can’t read without getting sleepy anyway. It’s the logical next step)
What I’ll probably actually do
Spend way too much time on Facebook
Start a million blog posts but get distracted by something shiny (ahem, Facebook)
Stay current on my 12 Words With Friends games
Go to the store every day for “that thing I forgot”
Eat ALL the Pirate’s Booty
I hold myself under a lot of pressure to remain productive on these kids days. I feel like it’s how I need to “earn my keep” in a way. So bless you to my friends Vanessa and Manya who told me that I had better not cook, clean, or grocery shop, and that I was well overdue for an entire day or nothing. My friend Elizabeth told me to have a glass of wine. I love my friends.
But after this week (because a girl needs an adjustment period, amirite?), if you see me hanging out on Facebook or waist deep in a Costco sized bag of Pirate’s Booty, smack me upside the head and tell me to get to work. Or at least tell me to take a nap.
Friday was my first real kid-free day. The first day in five and a half years where I didn’t feel rushed to get home or guilty for being alone while someone else watched my kids.
Five and a half years. A whole morning. Free of kids. Don’t get me wrong, I love them to death, but I love being alone. Like really love it. LET US BASK IN THIS GLORY OF ALONENESS.
Other days where Christian came home to watch the kids when i had an appointment or an event to go to don’t count. No, today, everyone was where they were supposed to be: kindergarten for Rachel and Claire and preschool for Zoe. As a left the preschool I saw a friend and gave her the old jazz hands as I walked out the door sans kids. If I could do a cartwheel without slamming into a wall and breaking a femur, I woulda done it, but I dropped out of gymnastics at age 4 or so. Never could do a proper cartwheel, and now it’s coming back to haunt me!
I’m not going to lie. It felt a little weird and a tad bit wrong to drive away with an empty car. I’ve looked forward to these days with anticipation and dread. Anticipation because have I mentioned the part about five and half years? And dread because I fear that I won’t make the most of this time. I should work on that article that’s due in a few days, but I want to nap. I should clean, but I want to read a book, which, let’s face it, will only lead to a nap.
And thus emerges the evidence of how my “job” here is changing, and how truly fortunate I am to be able to have this job. We haven’t really had a very high standard of productivity for the past 5 years, but for some reason I don’t think “keep everyone alive and don’t burn the house down” as number one on my to-do list anymore.
The laundry should get done, the kitchen floor destickified. Basically all of the things I had a really hard time doing with 3 little kids coming right behind me and undoing it. Important errands will get run. I’ll be expected to stay current on my work so I’m not up until midnight or later every night. Or if I am, it’s because I’m binge watching Orange is the New Black.
Today’s job duties entailed:
6am wake up call and shower.
6:30am wake up call and breakfast for the big girls.
Get everyone fed and clothed with presentable outfits, smooth ponytails, and fresh breath. Mostly.
Walk the big girls to school.
Finally open their online accounts so they can make cafeteria purchases.
Take Zoe to preschool.
Zip into Target in search of sunglasses (left empty handed. #miracle). Do you know how long it’s been since I could just ZIP in somewhere because I had an extra 30 minutes before my next stop? If I’d had 3 kids with me it would take me 30 minutes to get everyone out of the car and up to the door, only to have to turn around and strap everyone back in.
Eye doctor appointment, AKA the first appointment I have made for myself in FIVE AND A HALF YEARS where I didn’t have to confer with my husband for child care. Let us mark this day on the calendar of milestones.
Zip into another Target to continue the Great Sunglass Hunt. Found some! It’s very First World of me, I know, but I left my sunglasses at a friend’s last weekend, and have been plagued with daily headaches from squinting in the bright sun. It’s okay to roll your eyes.
Home for lunch of salad with rotisserie chicken and avocado.
Check containers of Chobani yogurt in the garage fridge to make sure they aren’t a part of the recall.
Enjoy some non-recalled yogurt.
Edit a friend’s writing resume.
Start a silly, self-absorbed blog post about what I’m doing on my first kid-free day. <— And you’re reading it right now! Worlds are colliding!
Pick up Zoe from preschool.
Head to the elementary school for the annual kindergarten Teddy Bear Parade & Picnic. Serious cuteness knows no bounds.
End kid free day. But start weekend early because Christian came home early for the parade. Holla!
It went faster than I thought it would, thanks to the doctor appointment, but honestly, I look forward to picking my girls up every single day. Even if they’re still reporting back that kindergarten is just okay. I know they’re having fun and learning. But being with me trumps school right now, and that’s fine with me.
It has been a WEEK. No joke, I’ve started about 57 posts in the past 3 days, and I just can’t bring myself to string a coherent sentence together. Truth be told, this week has been rough on all of us. I expected it to be an adjustment for the girls, but honestly, I didn’t expect the start of kinder to throw my world for a loop so much.
So for now, some quick thoughts on kindergarten because I can’t manage more than short, simple sentences that I may or may not have fallen asleep while writing.
6am is really early. 6am 5 days in a row will make you question all of life’s meaning.
We have to walk approximately 27 miles to get to the school that is practically across the street. #nocrosswalks
I didn’t cry on Monday. *pats self on back, although slightly disappointed in lack of emotions*
Tuesday was harder. And lonely.
I completely lost it Tuesday night. Claire Danes ugly cry and all.
It’s so hard to just drop them at their classroom door. But it’s harder on them if I linger.
The mornings are hella long. I’ve usually done more before 9am than my usual noon. Read: drink coffee and check in on social media.
By 10:30am I am ready for a nap.
Zoe may be having a hard time adjusting to the new schedule as well.
They have no snack time at school, so I pack them super huge linebacker-worthy lunches. And they eat it all.
Related: I’m totally over this whole making lunches thing.
Going from 2 day a week preschool to every day kindergarten is HARD. On everyone.
I get almost zero information out of them when they get out. Is this why I’m sending you here? So you can play with balls and eat lunch?
I’m really glad I persevered in my search for the Ninja Turtle backpacks. Because even if they aren’t sure about kindergarten right now, they love their damn backpacks. And seriously, how cute is that?
Claire: “Kindergarten is SO LONG for mommies and daddies to come back.” I feel ya, sister.
Zoe loves having Mom all to herself. She does NOT miss her sisters.
I don’t think I’ve been this tired since I had infant twins.
I miss them more than I imagined I would.
I expected them to be tired after school, but their tired translates to “let’s run around batsh*t crazy and f*ck sh*t up.” So today I let them zone out in front of the TV for an hour or so. I hated to do it, but it really aided against the breaking of things and hurting of feelings and harming of little sisters.
Also I should mention that they are separated. I’ve written briefly about why I do this, but I’ll write more in depth on it…someday? When I can think?
I haven’t developed any semblance of a routine, nor have I even started to get an idea of what I’m supposed to be doing other than following the tiniest dictator’s orders all day. She starts preschool next week. But for now, the days are really, really long, and I’m really, really tired. I’ll catch ya next week when I may have regained a few more brain cells.
It’s hot here. I’m sitting outside, sweating the sweat, with a hot laptop on my lap and hot coffee in my cup. My kids are requesting to be naked, but there are two things they need to know about life: 1. You should always wear clothes outside; and 2. We live in Texas. Summer is hot. Embrace it. Or move.
I’m feeling lots of feelings lately. In two weeks – less than two weeks – I will walk them to the elementary school for the first time. It will be way too early for me, but we’ll all be excited, I hope. We’ll enter the front doors, walk the brightly colored halls to two kindergarten classrooms, filled with colorful posters and bulletin boards, and I will leave them in the care of another person for the majority of that day and every weekday to follow.
I get a knot in my stomach every time I think about kindergarten. Will they like it? Will they have fun? Will they like their teacher? Will their teacher be able to pick up on the nuances that make them who they are? Like Claire’s decisiveness or Rachel’s curiosity. Will they realize that although Rachel sometimes needs a coaxing from her distractions, a touch on the shoulder to pull her back to the real world, she’s sharp as a tack when she can focus? She wants to be a doctor when she grows up. Will they sense that Claire’s apprehension about being away from her sisters (i.e. no one to be in charge of) is best dispelled by helping her feel helpful? She’s my little mother, my nurturer.
Will I miss them? Of course I will. Will they miss me? Maybe for a day or so.
I have fears. I fear that they won’t have fun. I fear that they will miss me. I fear that I will miss them. I know I will. In these last few weeks of summer I find myself looking back over the past 5 years and wondering if I did everything I could, soaked in every inch of them that I could. Loved on them as much as I could. I know I didn’t, and for that I will beat myself up. Also, I know that I did, and for that I will be grateful.
I fear I will be a teary mess all day on the first day of school. And I probably will.
So we’re visiting splash pads, museums, movie theaters, pools. We’re eating way too many popsicles and going out for ice cream at every opportunity. We’re taking chances, climbing mountains, going on adventures. We’re skipping lunch because it’s so inconvenient. We wear constant ponytails.
We’re also staying home, huddled in the air conditioning. Shedding our clothes as soon as we wake up. Except for me. I’m the only one who can seem to remain fully clothed around this house. The kids want to be just like their dad, who they see going around in only shorts. Athletic shorts, not undershorts, in case you were getting a visual.
I am a rockstar mom on the days I sense I am running out of time. I pull patience from places I didn’t even know I could keep it. I initiate games. I paint 30 tiny toenails and 30 tiny fingernails the most garish of colors. I print out dozens of My Little Pony pictures so they can spend all of 2 minutes painting each one one color before requesting another.
I bake. With them. I know.
And then there are days of no patience, no tolerance, lots of yelling, lots of tears. Irrationality on both sides. Apologies in bed at the end of a long day. Promises to myself to be better tomorrow, because I only have x number of days left.
I realize I am treating kindergarten like boarding school, acting like they are leaving me forever. I forget that they’ll be home in the afternoon to eat all the snacks and tell me excitedly about their day. I remind myself that I’m not really losing them; they’re not moving out. Yet. But kindergarten is the beginning of a new era: the Era of School, vortex in which they will remain for the rest of their childhood. They’ll be gone every day from now until eternity, or approximately 2026.
Hence my sitting outside sweating, while they play with leaves that are “baby hawks,” swinging from the trapeze, and hiking their dresses up around their midsections to try and catch even the tiniest slice of breeze that may happen to cut through the yard. But it’s August, so there really is none. So we’re embracing it. The heat, the changes. All of it.
Linked up with Just Write. Thanks, Heather.