November 28, 2013

Getting on the gravy train

What is it about Thanksgiving that we all love so much? I want to say that everyone appreciates the opportunity to be grateful for their circumstances, the people in their lives, and the love and joy they share, but I’m leaning more towards “it’s the food.” Not because my circumstances, friends, and family aren’t awesome (they are!), but because the food is just that great. I have my friends and family all year long. I can call them up, go visit, or walk across the room and get my snuggles anytime I want. But when can I fry up a giant turkey, make 1,345 side dishes and whip up more than a few pies for dessert? Only on Thanksgiving, my friend. It’s a special time--for my heart and my digestive system.

It hasn’t always been this way. Thanksgiving used to be merely an excuse for me to eat copious amounts of pie and banana pudding because I was afraid to try the vegetable-laden side dishes and I didn’t really like turkey (more on that in a minute).

Calling me a picky eater is an understatement. My friends used to say my lunch tray looked like a massacre had occurred when it was pizza day at school. That’s because I would carefully lift the sheet of cheese off those rectangular slices of cafeteria pizza and wipe every ounce of sauce off with my napkin. If no napkin was available, I would just wipe my pizza on the edge of the tray until there wasn’t a trace of tomato to be found.

These are not the actions of a normal person.

I’m a little embarrassed to tell you this, but since I’m being honest—I never tried gravy until last Thanksgiving. I know. How does that happen? I guess the brown color and the association with the word “giblets” made me uneasy. I imagined that gravy was a potent potion of intestines and maybe mud. So, I suffered through 21 Thanksgivings eating my turkey bone-dry. When family members would say, “Do you want some more turkey?” I’d be like, “No, that was bland and generally terrible. Why would I want more of it?” After my first taste of gravy last year, I suddenly understood why someone would offer a second (or third…or fourth) serving of turkey. And I loved them for it.

Two more Thanksgiving staples I’ve yet to try are cranberry sauce and green bean casserole, but don’t tell my mother. I’m pretty sure she thinks I love her green bean casserole. (Update: I made green bean casserole for the first time this year. Added some cheese and bacon. It was divine.)

Thankfully, my daughter doesn’t share my picky eating habits on Thanksgiving or any other day. She loves vegetables and trying new foods. I don’t normally feel that bad about my pickiness, but when she asks me why I don’t want any Brussels sprouts or a bite of her broccoli, I feel a little bit like a failure.

That’s why I’m going to try to suck it up and eat like a normal person this Thanksgiving. Even though the sight of it makes me a little nauseous, I’ll try that cranberry sauce and I’ll eat the biggest serving of green bean casserole you’ve ever seen (okay, I’m exaggerating--I might try a bite). I’m thinking if any of it ends up being as delicious as gravy turned out to be, Thanksgiving might just be my new favorite holiday.

November 14, 2013

Mirror mirror on the wall, you know I need a break

Mirror, mirror, on the wall, who's the fairest one of all? Wait, please don't say it. 

I'm looking at you, reflection, and I hope you don't get offended, look like you need a break. It's nothing to be ashamed of. It happens to the best of us: after giving your all at home, work, and school, day after day, you're bound to run out of steam sooner or later. Take your own advice: it's time to bed down and rest up. Besides, I think I smell hot cocoa.

It's clear you need a break, self. Here's how I know:

Looking in the mirror right now is scary and probably best avoided. This isn't par for course. Normally, you look less repulsive and more fashionable. I don't want to be rude or anything, but...raccoon eyes. Ratty hair. Unidentified food stains on your shirt. Unidentified mass stuck to your shoe. Unidentified toddler stuck to your hip.

You put the milk in the cereal cabinet this morning. Also, the Mini Wheats are in the fridge. So don't forget to pick up a gallon of milk on your way home, okay? Get it together, Mama.

The thought of making dinner makes you want to take a nap that doesn't end in the near future. In fact, the thought of all chores make you feel this way. So does the thought of exercising, but I think that's pretty normal. 

You want to take a bubble bath the way most people want to be millionaires or the owner of a luxury yacht. I mean, you'd like those things too, but you'd probably just end up using the million dollars to buy the luxury yacht, which you would then take a bubble bath in. After you took a nap, of course.

You may not think I've noticed, but lately, in the rare moments you have “free time,” you just stare into space, mouth hanging open, with no real thoughts being formulated for obscenely long amounts of time. It's not the best or most respectable way to spend your time, but then again, it's not the worst. Still an indicator that you, my friend, need a break.

There’s no getting around it: if you’re a parent, you’re on full-time duty. Even when you think you’re off-duty (to Grandmother’s house they go!) you’re still on-call. You’re filling the role of mother, nurse, chef, teacher, maid, handyman, and personal shopper—all day, every day. It makes perfect sense that you’re tired and grumpy and maybe a little frazzled.

I’m writing you a note to stay home from work tomorrow. Drink lots of…water, order take-out, stare into space, and by all means, take that bubble bath. You can thank me later, after you’ve done something about that hair.

Debra Carpenter is a novice mother, wife, and college student. She writes about the parts of parenthood you didn’t expect when you were expecting. Like the fan page at or visit the website at

November 12, 2013

Date Night Idea Jar

The Date Night Jar

This one goes out to all the mamas and daddies who like to take the night off every now and then and maybe get a little jiggy with it. Maybe not. It's up to you, really.

If you're anything like me, you have all these incredible plans to do daring, novel things on your date nights...until it's date night. Then, you're like, "Uhh, want to just get McDonald's and have sex later?" I mean, that's nice and all, but it's not fantastic.

There is a solution, you know. And I thought about keeping it all to myself, like I normally do with great discoveries, but that's not really fun, is it? The solution is the date night jar, and here's how you do it (I stole this idea from Shaina at Rejoicing in the Rain):

Get some popsicle sticks or tongue depressors. I don't condone stealing them from your doctor's office before the doctor comes in, but...desperate times call for desperate measures, know what I'm saying?

Paint those sticks a few different colors of your choice. You're going to be color-coding the sticks by the cost of the date night idea; for example, natural (non-painted) is free, yellow is cheap ($), green is moderate ($$) and blue is expensive and requires a little planning ($$$).

This is the fun part. Brainstorm some fun date night ideas and write them on the sticks, making sure you keep with your color code. Here are some examples:

  • Indoor picnic (free)
  • Camping in the living room (free)
  • Bathroom spa ($)
  • Go bowling ($$)
  • Thrift shopping for the weirdest item ($)
  • Go hiking (free)
  • Test drive a car you can’t afford (free)
  • Weekend getaway ($$$)
  • Go camping (free)
  • Dinner & drive-in movie ($$)
  • Theme for dinner and drinks; Mexican, Italian, etc ($$)
  • Go to a concert ($$)
  • Make your own wine ($)
  • First date redo (free)

Now, gather your sticks and put them in your date night jar, which can be anything from a coffee mug to a mason jar. Decorate it, if you want. Tie some ribbon or twine around the top or add a label to make it your own.

When date night rolls around, if it ever does, you'll have zero excuses to just end up watching Netflix and passing out before 10pm. And when you get back from your hot date, you'll be so happy that you might just call me up to say "Thanks, Deb." And I'll say, "You're so welcome, but don't ever call me at 1:00am again."

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