11.17.2015

Super duper easy vegan fried ravioli

A few weeks ago we did our annual "find all the pumpkin drinks in Ohio and consume them with friends" evening. We just started this a few years ago and it's basically an excuse to indulge on my favorite pumpkin beers while stuffing my face with some vegan goodies. And hosting. Because I love hosting.

So instead of scrounging up a bunch of pumpkinish foods to go with this extravaganza, I decided to make whatever my little heart desired, and by heart I mean stomach.

Fried ravioli. It's something I've had VERY few times since going vegan because who wants to fuss around with all that pasta and breading and making tofu ricotta? I mean right? So I decided to dress up one of our favorite vegan frozen raviolis, and holy moly was it amazing.

We're talking minimal effort, but a serious reward. These fried raviolis were delicious, prep was super fast and the presentation was pretty sweet if I do say so myself.

AND they were a hit with our nonvegan friends (which is 99% of our friends)!

You can probably use YOUR favorite vegan ravioli, but I'm going to throw out the products we used because they came out stupendously.

Your next football party thanks me.


Vegan Fried Ravioli
(makes around two dozen fried raviolis)
Ingredients:
1 12-oz bag of bite-size Tofutti "cheese" ravioli
2 cups of your favorite vegan marinara sauce
2 cups all purpose flour
2 cups vegan bread crumbs
2 cups plain almond milk
1 TBS Ener-G egg replacer
Italian seasoning
Go Veggie vegan parmesan cheese
Vegetable oil for frying

Directions:
First off, keep the raviolis frozen. Don't do anything crazy like thaw them. Grab medium-size bowls or containers and pour the milk in one, the flour in one and the breadcrumbs in another. In the bowl with the milk, use a fork and blend 1 TBS Ener-G egg replacer until fully mixed. In the bowl with the flour, add 2 tsp Italian seasoning and mix it up.

In a large frying or saute pan, heat about 1/2 inch of vegetable on medium heat. While this is heating up, it's time to start breading our raviolis. Make sure to have a large plate to place them on. I set my assembly line up like this: flour container first, then milk, then breadcrumbs, then plate. So you're gonna grab a frozen ravioli, dip it in the milk mixture, then the flour mixture, then the milk mixture, then the breadcrumbs mixture. Place on the plate. Repeat 23 more times.

Once your raviolis are breaded and your oil is hot, it's time to start frying. Grab a plate and place some paper towels on it to help soak up excess oil. Have your parmesan ready to go over there, too. Gently place these bad boys in the oil and cook on each side about two-three minutes or until a golden brown color. (I was able to do 8 at a time in my gigantic pan). Using a spatula or whatevs you want, take them out of the oil and place on paper-towled plate. Sprinkle parmesan on while still hot, add some more Italian seasoning if you want to get really wild and crazy. Repeat until they're all done.

Let them cool and then serve with your favorite marinara sauce and listen to everyone rave about how they can't believe it's vegan!

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11.11.2015

A letter to the parent of a female athlete

Dear parent of a female athlete,

Let me start off by saying this: Chances are, whether your daughter is nine or 19, she IS trying.

Sure, there are times her mind wanders; times when she laughs with a teammate or gets off track and starts talking about a boy. But for the most part, when it comes down to crunch time, when she's at her 190th pitching or hitting lesson and doing the same warm-up drill she's done 1,059 times, she IS trying.

It's not easy being an athlete. It's even harder being a good one. And just because she's an amazing athlete, doesn't always mean she's going to be on it 100%.

She's going to have her off days. She's going to have her absolutely, downright, terrible days. She's going to have trouble focusing sometimes, because, well, she's not JUST an athlete, she's also a young woman, a student, a daughter, a best friend, a girlfriend and probably so, so, so much more.

So I'm asking you to cut her some slack. If she's struggling with something she normally excels at, if she's having an off-day and not hitting her spots, heck, even if it seems like her head is in another world, just cut her some slack. Be her parent. Be her biggest supporter. But please, don't be her coach too.

Chances are, she's got enough coaches. But she's only one mother, one father, heck, some of them don't even have both. Be her supporter. Lift her up. Tell her she's doing amazing and if she has a bad day, it was just that - a bad day - it doesn't make her a bad athlete, daughter or person. It's just one day. One game. One lesson. One practice. One session doesn't not define her career.

I've been coaching girls for more than 10 years now. Softball was something I was always incredibly passionate about and still am. As a pitching coach, I get the honor of working with a select group of girls weekly to hone their skills. I teach them how to throw faster fastballs, more deceptive change ups and how to put more spin on all their awesome junk pitches. And because I've seen your daughter weekly for the last five years, trust me when I tell you this, she IS trying.

I will never, ever know your daughter the way that you do. I don't always know how she acts at home, to you or to her teachers. But I do know your daughter on the field. I notice when her shoulders start to slump because she made a bad play; I can see the deep breath she takes when she's just made a monumental mistake and is trying her best to hold it together and stick it out a little longer. I KNOW who your daughter is on the field. Years ago, I WAS your daughter on the field.

But what she needs from you and I, are very, very different things. Unless you, yourself, have played the sport and position she is playing, then please, stand down some. I can't tell you how many lessons I've been in where a dad or mom coaches their daughter through the drills, and not constructively, but very, very critically. "You're STILL not doing it right, aren't you listening to what your coach is saying?" "Why am I paying for these lessons if you're not going to give it your all?" "Don't you know what your doing wrong? You're supposed to step this way, not that way."

I'm not judging you parents, I promise, I'm really not. I know how it feels to KNOW your daughter is capable of more than she's currently giving. I struggle myself as a parent to step back when my daughter is on the balance beam and falling down for the 15th time. I fight back the urge to ask her why she's not focusing more, and my daughter is only five, so trust me when I tell you I understand your feelings. But I also know, from a coaching perspective, I know nothing about gymnastics. So rather than tear her down, rather than question her commitment, I'm going to tell her to keep going. To keep trying. I'm going to encourage her, because that is what she needs from me.

And trust me when I tell you this, parents. As a coach, I believe in your daughter too. I know she is capable of so much, if not even more than you already know, and I want for her only amazing things. It doesn't matter if I have one athlete or 20, I know them all, I coach them all as my own and when they fail, I fail too. I can't tell you how many times I've left a softball tournament asking myself what I could have done better, what more I could have provided, to have helped your girls step up their game. To have helped them play better. To have helped them feel more pride.

So believe me, I think about your daughter. When I her head drop because she just struck out and let her team down, it weighs heavily on my mind and my heart. And I know you feel that pain too. I know it breaks your heart to see your daughter hurt, and it frustrates you because you know she is SO much better than that. But before you critique her, before you ask her why on Earth she would swing at something at her ankles, let me ask you to do this instead: love her. Remind her how brilliant she is. Remind her that no matter how she plays, you will ALWAYS be in her corner, because you are her parent and that's what your job is.

And as a coach, this is what my job is: I'm going to make your daughter better. I'm probably going to give her some tough love, because that's what a coach is supposed to do. We push your daughters to do more and be more than they think they can. We spend practices, fundraisers, lessons and weekend trips with your daughters learning about them, investing in them, so we know how far and when to push them. As a coach, I'm asking you to trust me, trust that I know your daughter and that when I make a call you may not agree with, I'm seeing something you don't.

Once upon a time at a tournament, I had a pitcher give up a homerun. She hung a riseball and it was hit over the fence. She turned her back to us in the dugout, but you could see her shoulders huffing up and down, as she struggled to hold back the sobbing feeling she wanted to give into. You told me to pull her. You told me to get her out of there because she was done. And for a moment, I considered it, because that's your daughter.

But I didn't. And you probably really, really disliked me that game. How could I leave your baby in there when she was feeling like that? How could I expect her to come back from that? Why would I put her and the team through this when she clearly wasn't on her game today. And this is where I need you to trust me. I promise I know your daughter too. And not only do I know her, but I know exactly how she feels, because I had those moments as a pitcher. And I also know, that when she comes back from this, which she did, she's going to be better for it. She's going to be stronger. And she's going to be better than if I had taken her out and let her sulk.

Sometimes, I know you want the opposite of understanding. Sometimes, you want us to come down harder on them. I know you want us to tell them to suck it up and play better. And sometimes, we do. Sometimes, we give them a dose of tough love that is a little too tough. But sometimes, we don't. Sometimes we have to remind them how human we all are. Because sometimes, we see things you don't when they're playing.

The pressure to be an athlete is enormous today. It's not enough to be good anymore, you have to be the best. And sometimes, that pressure can suffocate you. And when your daughter is struggling to catch her metaphorical breath, it's not my job as a coach to strangle her confidence, it's not the time to break her down in order to build her up, we just need to keep her together.

And that is exactly what your job should be as the parent of a female athlete. To consistently be their rock. To be their fan all the time, even if you think they could be trying a little harder or doing a little better. Let the coaches wield the tough love, while you bring all the love.

Sincerely,

Your daughter's coach.

11.09.2015

Vegan apple-cider glazed pumpkin cakes

I wish I could take ownership of this amazingly simple recipe I'm about to throw your way, but alas, one of my friends shared it on Facebook and I decided, "wow I have to try this." And then, after I tried it and our friends declared it the most delicious cake they'd ever eaten, I decided I had to put it up on the blog in case the rest of you haven't seen it.

We're talking serious yum factor here and minimal effort.

You can find about a million different recipes for this on Pinterest or your Facebook too, so I'm not sure who to link to or where to place credit. But whoever you are that created this, well, you're awesome.

I chose to use a square cupcake pan to make these, so they'd have the appearance of personal mini cakes, which makes everyone feel special, right? That, and I haven't used this pan in over a year when I bought it for Brae's birthday and so I felt the urge to dust it off. You can do this in a regular rectangle cake pan or in a good ole fashioned cupcake pan, whatever your heart desires!



Vegan apple-cider glazed pumpkin cakes
(makes 12 square cupcakes)
Cake Ingredients: 
1 box of vegan yellow cake mix
1 can of pumpkin puree (15 oz)
1/4 cup water

Glaze Ingredients: 
1.5 cups powdered sugar
1/4 cup apple cider (you can use a little less if you like your glaze thicker)
1 tsp pumpkin pie spice

Directions:
Preheat the oven to 375.
Mix together cake mix and pumpkin. Grease your cupcake pan. Add in water and whip with hand or stand mixer. Once whipped together (mixture will be thick and a nice heavy fluffy texture), scoop into square cupcake pan (or whatever you've got). Bake for 25-30 minutes, or until the cakes begin to pull from the sides. Once cool, transfer your mini cakes to a large plate or tray.

In a medium bowl, mix together powdered sugar and apple cider. Once fully blended, stir in pumpkin pie spice. With a fork, stab holes in the mini cakes, about 6-10 per cake. Pour glaze over mini cakes.

Savor. Savor some more. Share if you must.

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11.06.2015

Squashing unhealthy views on motherhood

Here's the thing about being a mom that people tell you, but you never really, really understand until you become one.

Motherhood, is seriously hard. In fact, it's the hardest thing you will ever, ever, EVER do in your entire life.

Of course, it's also the most rewarding, beautiful and amazing thing you'll ever get to be.

One of the hardest things about motherhood are all the feelings you don't expect to have - and I'm not talking about watching your child fail or have their heart broken for the first time - these feelings come with the territory.

I'm talking about all of the internal interrogation you subject yourself to, time and time again. Often, these feelings of self-doubt are completely unfounded, completely made up in your head and exacerbated by your own mind, by that constant feeling that you're somehow not good enough.

I bet if you gathered a room full of mothers and asked them to raise their hands if they ever felt not good enough, felt like they were somehow failing their child, every.SINGLE.one of them would not only raise their hand, but stand up.

It's not something we're proud to admit, us moms, that maybe we're not strong enough, not patient enough, not kind enough - in our weakest moments, some of us might even question if we love enough.

But we all have those feelings. And while it's not fair to place blame on any particular thing for those feelings, I think it's time we start calling out the things that make it a lot worse.

Facebook. The internet. Parenting magazines. Blogs. Friends. Twitter. Family. Other women. Other mothers. Instagram. Advice columns. Stupid memes. Pro-this-and-that groups. Doctors. Professionals. Television shows. Oh, and did I mention, SOCIAL MEDIA.

The other day I was perusing my Facebook timeline on my lunch break. I came across a motherhood meme from a new mother friend of mine. And I read it, and it made me mad. So I read it again, I tried to with softer eyes, less feminist, mother lion, hear-me-roar eyes, and it STILL made me mad. Because while the message seems all sweet and lovey dovey, there's so much hatred the mother I was three years ago feels because of that meme. And I don't like feeling that way.

"You can tell a baby is being well taken care of when they are full of joy." 

Seriously? Whoever made this can go shove it. I have taken care of my babies for well over six years now, between growing them in my body and worrying about every drop of caffeine I put in it or if I had enough veggies while I was nourishing them. And once they made their ways into the world, I continued to care for them. My daughter was a "difficult" baby. She struggled to latch, I had to either wear a shield to nurse her without both of us ending in tears (although sometimes, we still did) or pump for days on end. She went 10 days without pooping once (with plenty of wet diapers), which was "unheard" of for breastfed babies. She cried a lot. Sure, she smiled too, but those first four or five months of motherhood, my baby wasn't full of joy. She struggled with gastric issues, she couldn't sleep unless on her tummy (which is a huge no-no) and she was stressed out. But you know what? I took care of my baby. I LOVED my baby. I smiled and cooed at her. I lived on her giggles, even if they were few and far between. She may not have always exuded joy, but she was loved. And cared for. And I'll be damned if some stupid meme is going to make me feel like I didn't take care of my baby, don't take care of my baby, because she's not a bundle of fucking sunshine.

I know, I know, I'm allowing myself to get all wound up because of some meme that meant well. But isn't that how a lot of things we end up beating ourselves up over start out? As well meaning? Nowadays, the pressure is really, really heavy on mothers, suffocating at times, because it seems like no matter what we do, it's not good enough.

You're a stay-at-home mom? Awesome! You're dedicating your life to your children, you gave up a career so you can be there for every little moment, that is a blessed and beautiful thing. Except now, you're lazy. Now,  you're an insult to women everywhere because you're "just a mom," "just a housewife." You know, you're just THE single most important person to your family, how dare you not want to work a 9-5 job in the name of women everywhere to raise your babies?

You're a working mom? Awesome! You're showing your children that women can have whatever they want - a family, a marriage, a career - ROCK on sister. Except, don't you feel guilty that you're not there to see your child pull themselves up for the first time? Take their first step? Are you even really a "full-time" mom if your children spend 40 hours a week in daycare? I mean seriously, you're going to let OTHER people raise YOUR kids. What kind of monster are you?

See what I mean? The list goes on and on. And in this day and age, you can't win, no matter what you do.

So here's the truth. I don't know what the answer is to all these stipulations, all this pressure we feel to be everything to everyone.

But I do know this. We need to build ourselves up, build each other up, embrace your decisions with confidence, because even if no one else in the world agrees with what you're doing (co-sleeping, bottle-feeding, raising your kids vegan), if you make your choices based on what YOU think is best for your children, you're going to start to feel a lot better about those decisions. So bottle feed if that's what works. Let all 5 of your children sleep in your bed. Instead of looking at another mother and thinking "I would NEVER do that," let's look with loving, open eyes, "That might not work for me, but kudos to her." Let's accept that there isn't one magical right way to do everything, and instead of offering critiques, let's offer support.

Once you stop listening to all those other voices,  you're going to be able to hear another one a lot better - your own.

And when you're raising babies, your voice is the most important one to listen to.

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10.21.2015

Vegan mushroom curry soup

If you're anything like me, any kind of curry dish basically instills a deep fear in the core of your being.

Don't get me wrong, I absolutely ADORE Thai food, I mean, I'd probably marry it if I could (sorry hubby!), but when it comes to making it, I feel like it's really, really intimidating.

Last week I had a super craving for soup AND Thai food. But I was lazy and didn't feel like driving the 20 minutes to pick up our food from our favorite little Thai joint. So instead, I decided to do the unthinkable - I decided to make my own curry soup.

This came out phenomenal, was super simple and was a favorite of Chubby Vegan Dads. It's super light too, not like the overly-creamy versions you might find elsewhere, so even if the temperature where you live isn't bottoming out like Ohio, you'll still enjoy it.

Even better news? All the ingredients should be available at any major grocery chain! So no need to hit up 10 different stores! Woot!


Vegan mushroom curry soup
(makes 8 servings)
Ingredients:
6 cups vegetable broth
1 can light coconut milk
2 cups of your favorite mushroom, sliced
1.5 cups carrots, sliced (frozen carrots work great!)
1/2 cup onions, diced
2 cups potatoes, chopped into bite-size pieces
1 red pepper, sliced
1 tablespoon red curry paste (or add by teaspoons to suit your taste, I like a lot of curry!)
2 tablespoons diced up cilantro (or add a bunch more to suit your taste!)

Directions:
In a large stock pot, bring vegetable broth, coconut milk and curry paste to a boil. (Make sure you do lots of stirring to completely blend in the curry paste). Reduce heat to medium-high and add in diced potatoes and carrots. Wait five minutes and add in mushrooms, red pepper, onions and cilantro. Cook on medium heat, stirring occasionally for 30 minutes. Turn off heat and serve in your favorite soup-eating bowl.

Feel free to eat with some of this awesome homemade vegan naan or nothing at all, either way it's delish!

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9.23.2015

Vegan Philly cheesesteak bites

It's football season again.

(And all the people rejoiced)

I celebrate football season for two reasons: the FOOD and the Carolina Panthers (more specifically, Cam Newton).

It's no secret I'm a lover of parties, hosting and all the fun food concoctions that come along with it, so to me, fall is the perfect time to take all your favorite meals and make them bite-sized.

We kicked off our first football Sunday with our own vegan version of Philly cheesesteak bites. Pinterest is a plethora of awesome ideas, but there aren't very many vegan ones. And when it comes to some recipes, it's a lot of trial and error in terms of finding the right vegan swaps.

Luckily, this one is A LOT of reward and very little effort.

Now, I won't lie. This probably isn't the kind of thing you want to eat every single day. It may be vegan, but it does utilize some fake meat products and vegan cheese. But I'm an "everything in moderation" kinda gal, so when we want to settle down and have some oh-so-delicious-but-bad-for-you vegan grub, we will, unapologetically.

We ate these with an Asian coleslaw (that's gotta be healthy, right!), but had enough to freeze and eat as a quick on-the-go snack or a moms-too-busy-for-dinner kind of meal!


Vegan Philly cheesesteak bites
(makes 24 "cups")
Ingredients:
2 rolls of Pillsbury crescent dough sheets
1 package Tofurky peppered lunch "meat"
8 ounces (1 cup) vegan cream cheese
1/2 cup Vegenaise
1 package Daiya provolone slices
1 package vegan mozzarella cheese shreds
1 onion, diced
1 green pepper, diced
1 cup sliced mushrooms
1 tbs olive oil
2 tsp garlic powder

Directions:
Preheat your oven to 375 degrees. In a large mixing bowl, cut up vegan provolone slices into small pieces. Cut up or tear Tofurky peppered lunch "meat" into small strips. Stir in vegan mozzarella cheese shreds, Vegenaise and vegan cream cheese. Dice up onion, green pepper, and sliced mushrooms, add to creamy mixture. Stir in garlic powder and olive oil. Set aside.

Roll out the crescent roll dough. Cut into 12 pieces. Grease your muffin pan and spread one piece per cup. (They won't cover the whole cup, it's more like get the four corners to tough the top. Check out the picture if you need a visual for this). Repeat until you have two muffin pans filled.

Spoon the creamy mixture into the cups (about 2/3 full) and then bake for 10-12 minutes.

Cool and take out of muffin pans! Top with pizza sauce, banana peppers or mustard if you're feeling wild!

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9.09.2015

Summer kicked my butt and other tales of woe

You may notice things have been a bit quiet around our humble abode this summer.

Don't worry, I didn't go anywhere, I'm just a busy, busy bee!

Summer officially ended nearly a month ago, but we just finished up our family vacation last week, so as far as I'm concerned it just ended for us.

It's kind of hard to believe I've had a kindergartner for almost ONE MONTH. Yeah, we start school crazy early here in the Buckeye State. I sent my first baby off on her school bus without shedding a tear (until a few hours later when I cried over something completely ridiculous). There is something so surreal about watching your first child head off to school.

About a week ago it hit me: she's not my "baby" anymore. I mean sure, she's always going to be my little girl, but she's officially in school. And she's going to be in school for at least a good 12 years now, and hopefully, once she's discovered her passion, another four to eight years of college after that. My "baby" has homework, wants to hang out with friends and is already telling me what's cool and what isn't.

Seriously, can we say five going on 15?

She absolutely adores school. She came home with her first homework assignment squealing for joy. (Remind me to remind her of that feeling in another year or two when she's totally over it and we have to twist her arm to sit down and do her homework). It's amazing to watch her begin this journey. And it's incredibly scary for me. I mean, I can handle kindergarten math, it's counting and coloring and whatnot. But what happens in a few years when I don't remember how to add fractions? Thankfully Chubby Vegan Dad has got quite the math sense about him, because legit folks, I struggle with that stuff.

When it's time to do some book reports or diagram sentences, though, I've got that covered. Do they even diagram sentences anymore? We didn't, so when I went off to college and had to take my fundamentals of English grammar my sophomore year, well, let's just say I was stumped.

I love to hear about her day, and she's already tired of telling me about it. She skips off the bus and I ask her about a zillion questions to figure out what she did. So far, her favorite things include: art class, math and checking out library books. And let's not forget the 4,578 different things the school does on the weekends, from pep rallies to ice cream socials, our little girl is fully-engaged in her school lifestyle.

And did I mention Braeburn is walking around and talking like a little man now? He uses six, seven word sentences, knows all his letters and adores singing songs.

I'm not ready for my children to be growing up so quickly. Trust me, I was on no level a baby whisperer, but between my best friend having a sweet little baby boy in July and my children practically ready to move off and start college, well, it makes a momma start to come down with that baby fever all over again. I'm starting to understand how people end up with four, sometimes five kiddos.

In addition to raising tiny human beings, I also completed my first season of coaching select summer softball. It was a phenomenal experience, an emotional one for sure, but I'm ready and pumped to take on the challenge again with a crop of super talented 16U girls.

My career has been a wee bit volatile over the last few months, which was the cause of additional stress and time away. I was blessed to have to make an incredibly hard decision between two amazing companies and two amazing teams. Once emotion was removed I knew the right decision, but it didn't really make it any easier to follow through with. I'm excited for what I have ahead of me in 2016, and trying to leave what I have in 2015 even better than before.

There's so many twists and turns I didn't plan for in adulthood, but I pray I continue to have the support of my husband and kiddos to continue along this path with enthusiasm.

Other than that, we're just keeping on, keeping on. (A little Joe dirt humor for you there ... and if you didn't know, Crackle just released Joe Dirt 2, I highly recommend it).

So, I guess the real question now is, are you ready for fall as much as we are???

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7.23.2015

Who are WE to redefine courage?

I may lose some friends over this.

I may lose some followers.

But at the end of the day, I'm tired of being quiet about things that stir something inside of me.

It's probably no surprise to most people who know me that I'm very pro-women's rights, probably more liberal than anything else and strongly in favor of equality. As a contrast, I too attend church, I am covered in tattoos and understand it makes me less desirable to some employers and I too am a mother who wants her children to grow up in a world which is morally sound.

I've been biting my tongue on this whole Caitlyn Jenner thing, because really, why jump on the bandwagon? She's not the first person to transition, perhaps the most famous one, but there have been many before her and there will be many after her.

And honestly, I'm not even here to debate transgender with anyone, because I am 100% in FULL support of the movement and nothing will change my mind. (Probably how most people against it feel as well).

But I am here to set something straight.

Something I've been seeing a lot of lately and am really, really sick of.

Caitlyn Jenner was awarded the ESPY's Arthur Ashe Award. The jist of this entails: "The Ashe Award is one of the most prestigious in sports. Recipients reflect the spirit of Arthur Ashe, possessing strength in the face of adversity, courage in the face of peril and the willingness to stand up for their beliefs no matter what the cost. The award is inspired by the life that Ashe lived, using his fame and stature to advocate for human rights, although, at the time, those positions may have been unpopular and were often controversial."

A lot of people are upset about this. A lot of people are irate because there are others who demonstrated "more courage" than Caitlyn Jenner did. In fact, there are A LOT of people who say what Caitlyn Jenner did doesn't display courage at all.

THIS. This is where I have a problem. Who are WE to redefine courage?

Google courage. Open a dictionary and look it up. Hell, ask Siri. Chances are, you're going to see something along these lines:

Courage: the ability to do something that frightens one.

See what I mean? No where in that definition, or any definition, does it say "courage is the ability to do something that frightens one, EXCEPT FOR" and then list a series of amendments that are not courageous. It's simple. It's doing something even though it scares you. It's facing YOUR fears, whatever they might be.

So maybe for Caitlyn Jenner, putting on some heels and picking out a dress IS showing courage. Maybe it's not for most women, but for her, it IS. And just because this seems like a small issue to everyone else, doesn't mean WE get to determine what is or isn't hard for her to do.

You know what was fearful for me? Putting on a bikini and wearing it out in public. My stomach is covered in stretch marks, has more fluff than I'd like, but you know what? I'm trying my damndest to love my body and that means getting over my issues with wearing a bikini. Is that particularly courageous to anyone? No, probably not. Did it feel like I conquered something when I wore it out in public? YES, it did. And it felt damn good to do that. And YOU don't get to define what is courageous to me.

Just like you don't get to define what courage is to Caitlyn Jenner.

Here's the thing. I'm not saying you have to accept the transgender community; I'm not saying you have to like Caitlyn Jenner; I'm not saying YOU should think she deserved the Arthur Ashe Award over anyone else; I'm not telling you how to feel at all because it's NOT MY PLACE to tell someone how they feel.

But I am saying this: WE do not dictate what courage is for someone else. WE do not get to redefine the word courage because it's being used for someone who is homosexual, transgender or anything else outside of the realm of what we deem "normal."

I am NOT a courageous woman just because I have ovaries. I am NOT a courageous woman just because I am capable of bearing children.

I AM a courageous woman because everyday I choose to do something I'm afraid of, whether that's wearing a bikini or fighting for equality.

Just like Caitlyn Jenner IS displaying courage because everyday she does something she is fearful of.

And based on the reaction most of the public has, I understand just how damn courageous she is.

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6.21.2015

Why we need feminists

Maya Angelou said, “I’m a feminist. I’ve been a female for a long time now. It’d be stupid not to be on my own side.”

Can I get an A-freaking-MEN?

The year is 2015, friends, and yet, we’ve still got famous women and men out their spilling some insipid garbage about what it is to be a feminist and how they’re not? (I’m looking at you, Lady Gaga, with your and I quote “I’m not a feminist, I hail men. I love men. I celebrate American male culture – beer, bars and muscle cars.”) Look, I’m not saying there aren’t certain stereotypes that don’t ring true, but let me just get this out of the way right now:
 
Being a feminist is:
• Equality

Being a feminist is not (although, you could do these things and still be a feminist, it’s just not required):
• Hating men
• Growing your armpit hair out
• Hating men
• Burning your bra (or not even wearing one)
• Hating men
• Wanting special treatment
• Being angry
• Hating men
• Being unattractive
• Hating men
• Hating sex
• Dating only women
• Hating men
• Shunning motherhood

Did I mention, in order to be a feminist, you DON’T HAVE TO HATE MEN? It’s quite the opposite really. As a feminist, I don’t need to hate men; I fully realize we are equal to men – I’m just waiting for the rest of the world to catch up with those views. So for someone like Lady Gaga with all that prowess and power to sculpt minds to say she’s not a feminist because she loves men, is exactly what’s holding us back. Guess what? I AM a feminist and I love men, I adore my husband, I like beer, I love bars and while I don’t really love muscle cars, that’s not because I believe in equality for all genders, it’s because I think cars are boring.

And let’s not forget Carrie Underwood’s snafu of “I wouldn’t go so far as to say I am a feminist, that can come off as a negative connotation. But I am a strong female.”

Look, I’m not saying you have to be a feminist. I mean, while it’s hard for me to grasp a female not being a feminist, I respect everyone’s decision to choose their belief system. But to say you’re not a feminist because it carries a negative connotation is the coward’s way out. Rather than identifying as a feminist and doing positive things to repair the negative stereotypes, you’ll just keep contributing to them by selling the same bullshit you don’t want to be associated with. 

Not cool, Carrie, not cool.

Yep, we’ve come a terribly long way, and I’m more than thankful the battle that lies ahead for my daughter or myself is far less treacherous than the one previously trekked by the likes of Susan B. Anthony and Gloria Steinem.

But guess what, we’ve still got a hell of a long way to go.

A few weeks back EA announced they’d be including women’s teams in FIFA 16. When I read this news my heart smiled a little. Sure, I don’t really follow soccer or even like it, but adding the female stars representing today’s teams means little girls who do like soccer will get to actually play their idols. Seems pretty cool, right?

Well it did, until a bunch of random bitter peeps decided to use social media to air their concerns, which would be fine, if they weren’t completely sexist and pardon my language, fucking stupid. Didn’t see it for yourself? Peruse this nice screenshot I have:



Gems like: “Who cares about Women?” (oh you know, just humans who were born to women, which consequently, is everyone in the entire world. And thanks for the completely incorrect capitalization of the word ‘women,’ I don’t need to be a feminist to tell you that’s grammatically STUPID.”)

Or my personal favorite: “Lets hope EA haven’t gone to far an added periods,” (Seriously, where to even begin with that garbage. Periods. Haha. Haha. That’s funny. Let’s hope for your sake, sir, that EA didn’t add periods because I’m willing to be you’ve never had a girlfriend if you still think periods are funny. ASSHAT. And let's hope EA hasn't raised the vocab level above, what, second grade, because you're clearly still struggling with things like past tense and the word AND.)

I mean, for reals, society? Feminist or not, if you have a mother, sister, daughter, girlfriend, female in your life that you don’t hate, these people are making the rest of us look pathetic. I mean, really, they add female teams to a video game for the first time in like ever and the best you can come up with are some pathetic jokes about periods and not being able to park a bus. Wow. If that’s the best you’ve got then I suggest you surrender now, because we’re definitely smarter, we’re stronger and we’re not going away.

I am a feminist and I’m proud of it. I hope to influence others in my life to have the same strength. I hope by bringing to light what a feminist can be (as opposed to what everyone else thinks it is), it will put a tiny dent in the negative connotation that scares people off.

I’m a feminist, and I like: dresses, high heels, my husband, being a mother, coaching softball, baking cupcakes, writing, reading, whisky, country music, scrapbooking and yoga.

What kind of feminist are you?

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6.17.2015

Foo foos, pee pee and mommy guilt

His name is Braeburn and he has a problem.

He's two and a half years old and he needs a foo foo (binky, paci) to go to sleep. 

And not only that. But he's also ... not potty trained. 

That's right. My son is over the age of two and when he lays his sweet baby head down to sleep he wants a pacifier. And forget sitting him on one of those tiny toilets. He is completely and utterly freaked out about that entire concept and I just can't bring myself to toilet traumatize his darling little baby bum yet. 

And it basically makes me a shameful, neglectful, irresponsible mother according all to the perfect internet Leave-it-to-Beaveresque mamas out there. Which are a lot, by the way.

I'm losing sleep, fingernails and probably growing some grey hairs over Braeburn's paci habit. When it was time for Pear Bear to give up her binkies, it didn't really phase her. She never really used them anyhow, she just liked to hold them in her tiny baby fists. So when we took her to Build-a-Bear and let her build her very own binky bunny, she went to sleep that night still clutching her precious foo foos -- in the foot of her new stuffed accomplice. 

It was easy, breezy and happened long before she passed 24 months of age. 

Braeburn, however, isn't the same. He adores his foo foos, he's cutting all four of his two-year molars and the poor thing is just so damn angelic when he asks for it I would probably buy him 50 more if it were possible for him to use them. 

Do I know he needs to give up his paci habbit, yes. Do I know the long-term impacts of using a binky on a child? Yes. 

But I also know what my baby needs. And I know what our family doctor says. AND our pediatric dentist. And all are in agreement that by limiting his use of it to naps and nighttime and by weening him off of it by the age of three, will result in him speaking just fine and with no more damage to his mouth than if I pull them from him right.this.second. 

If you make the mistake of googling "when to get rid of the paci," you're going to pull up about a million results of crap. You'll find a few legitimate sources (which still shouldn't replace the opinion of your family doc and dentists), but ultimately, you're going to find a zillion posts from all those momvice sites (see what I did there, I combined mom with advice, because that's what those sites are). Well-intentioned mamas post their questions "my son is seven months old, when should I get rid of his pacifier?" And while there are a few heartfelt responses here and there, for the most part, this is the type of advice these women are getting:

"Never offer one. Then you won't have to get rid of them."
Gee, thanks for that piece of advice. That's terribly helpful considering the mom already let her child use one. Thanks. Now I'm going to go beat myself up over the last seven months of usage. ASSHAT.

"Allowing children to use pacifiers and bottles past the age of 1 is ridiculous."
 Wow, that's quite a gem there, isn't it. Thank you, internet dad, for calling me ridiculous and not actually using facts or anything else to back up your claim. Just straight up ridiculous. ASSHAT

"I don't recall that any of my kids used a pacifier. It's a substitute for good parenting."
Oh, OK. Well I did carry this baby in MY uterus for 40 weeks and eight days, so naturally once I popped his giant ten-pound body out of mine I decided to be a shitty parent. ASSHAT.

"6 months. But there is a point where kids try to get rid of them on their own. It's the parents most often that continue to plug them in."
Yep, you caught me! I do continue to plug them in his mouth ... after he shrieks for 20 minutes asking for his foo foo and chewing on his hands because his teeth are hurting him so damn bad. Thanks for the recommendation of six months, too. WITH NO FACTS. JUST SIX MONTHS. ASSHAT.

Look, here's the thing about trying to "guilt" moms into feeling bad for their parenting decisions. The ones you really impact, the ones who really give your advice a second thought, are usually the ones who are already beating themselves up. So instead of being helpful, instead of offering them genuine advice for them to consider, you just find a way to make them question themselves more, beat themselves up more, and ultimately, what -- make yourself feel better because you were able to belittle a mama 20 states away? That makes you an ASSHAT.

Heaven forbid we support each other. Heaven forbid we think about other mamas' feelings. Heaven forbid we try to be helpful and not hurtful.

Of course I know not EVERY mother is looking to bully others. It just seems like they're so much louder than the friendly ones, the ones who really want to lend an ear and offer help. 

So what did we decide about his foo foo and potty habbits? Well, we're taking it day by day and giving him until the age of three. Right now, he has his foo foo during nap and nighttime. And while not every mama, doctor or dentist may agree with that, this one and ours do, so that's good enough for me. Does that make me right? Of course not. But if I've done the research and asked the questions and found the answers, it's right for me. It's right for Braeburn. 

Am I worried about his speech? Not really. There have been OODLES of studies done and the results are very inconclusive when it comes to using a pacifier until the age of three and impact on speech. He already uses bigger words than some of Pearyn's friends. I understand him. Strangers understand him. There have been no delays or inconsistencies found by the professionals at his school, so we're going to keep on keeping on. 

And just like his sissy, we're going to encourage him to like the potty, to sit on it, to get comfortable with it, but we're not going to force it. I stressed and worried so much over Pearyn being potty trained (because she was a girl afterall and she was supposed to be potty trained much easier and earlier than boys, right!?) that I made us both miserable. So on her third birthday she decided she wanted big girl princess panties and she got them, and never looked back. 

So this time, I'm going to trust myself a lot more and all that googling a lot less. 

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5.25.2015

Time is an asshole

OK, so I’ll be honest. When my daughter was a baby, there may or may not have been several nights where I prayed to any and every God that she would hurry up and be like, five years old. At least then she could tell me what was causing her to shriek like someone was tweezing her tiny baby eyebrows; I wouldn’t be changing diapers 24/7; I wouldn’t be up rocking her all hours of the night simply because she felt like staring at my face for three-and-a-half hours.

Everything would get just a littttttle bit easier when she got just a litttttttle bit older, right?

Right?

Well, sort of.

I mean, she IS able to tell me what’s wrong with her, she’s been out of diapers for years and I don’t have to rock her anymore … but … I kind of wish she was a baby again.

Don’t get me wrong. I haven’t forgotten the long, miserable nights where sleep was something I fanaticized about.  I don’t actually miss changing her diapers and I get more than my fill of rocking babies while coaxing Braeburn to sleep.

However, it’s more than that. I don’t simply miss babies; I miss HER being my baby. It’s probably because she was my first. She’s the little doll who MADE me a mother. She’s the first person to prove to me love at first sight DOES exist and she’s continued to make every other tired cliché about motherhood true, time and time again.

And now, she’s five. She’s five and I’m sitting at her kindergarten screening and finally starting to absorb what this means for her, for our family.

Sure, it’s only five half-days a week; and sure, she still has a week of preschool left, but those things don’t matter. What matters is my daughter is about to REALLY start her education; my daughter is about to go to an entirely new school, make entirely new friends and have entirely new experiences – without me.

I know, I know, it’s important for her to spread her wings and all that fluffy, mature junk, but it doesn’t mean it’s easy to accept as a parent. It doesn’t mean I’m READY for her to, even if she’s COMPLETELY ready for this next step.

The more my children age, the more I start to empathize with all those annoying people who tell you to “soak up every minute” your children are tiny, whether they’re throwing tantrums or resisting sleep – one day, you’re going to miss this. Maybe where people make the mistake, however, is what they’re implying you’re going to miss. Of course you’re not going to miss the sleepless nights. You ARE going to miss your baby’s sweet little face as they stare at yours for the seventh hour (even if it means no sleep). You’re going to miss the wondrous way they drink in every aspect of your face, smiling, cooing and giggling at even the slightest flinch of your mouth. Of course you’re not going to miss the tantrums. You ARE going to miss them being so absolutely enthralled with you, so determined to get your attention, that they’ll do anything it takes – whether it’s a sweet, sneaky snuggle or an outright, body-stiff-as-a-board, red-faced, breakdown.

One day, you won’t be the center of their world and that’s OK. That’s exactly what’s supposed to happen. But it doesn’t mean you won’t miss those days when you were. It doesn’t mean you won’t long for their neediness. And it doesn’t mean you don’t want your child to spread their wings.

Ultimately, it just means you want your past-self to appreciate all those things you found so damn annoying. It means you become nostalgic as you check AM or PM for your daughter’s kindergarten; it means you become defensive, mama-bear when you think of people “evaluating” her readiness for school; it means you’re REALLY grasping for the first time that your children won’t need you so much one day.

And that might be the absolute hardest thing to truly grasp.


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4.25.2015

Is your #PlateProud?

Let’s face it. In this day and age, knowing where your food comes from can be pretty important when it comes to knowing what the heck is in it. With misleading “titles” that don’t really mean anything (I’m looking at you “cage free”), it can seem really overwhelming to find good ingredients.

And that’s what makes Green BEAN Delivery so flipping awesome. If you’re not familiar with Green BEAN, it’s a membership-based subscription service (with no sign-up fees) that provides you super delicious, super organic, super healthy groceries right to your DOOR. Yep. YOUR FRONT DOOR.

The best part about this service? The power is in YOUR hands! You get to decide how frequently you want to order, WHAT you want to order and when the heck you want these awesome groceries delivered! There’s a variety of bin options, all loaded with certified-organic produce and there are plenty of awesome healthy add-ons too, like gluten-free chocolate chip cookies and MORE!

And because Green BEAN likes to encourage healthy, delicious meals, they’re currently running a pretty sweet recipe content called #PlateProud. With over $1,200 in prizes being given away AND five different categories you can enter, Green BEAN wants to find out what’s on your plate! With a deadline of May 22, you have just under a month to enter your original, tasty recipes (one per category). Five winners and five runners up will be chosen and announced on June 15. The recipes must be original and no longer than 400 words, and a photo is required. This is open to U.S. residents only and winning recipes will be highlighted on Green BEAN’s website! Holler!

The five totes awesome categories you’ll be submitting your #PlateProud recipe to (and their awesome prizes) include:
  • Grillin’ & Chillin: winner receives a premier grill set, including a plancha wok, accessories, a cookbook and a $50 Green BEAN Delivery gift card
  • Quick, Easy & Kid-Friendly: winner receives a BPA-and-phthalates-free and leakproof bento-style lunchbox, Mr & MRs. Food Face plates, food truck-shaped bowl, chalkboard placemats, training chopsticks, some simple cookbooks and a $50 Green BEAN Delivery gift card
  • Locavore: winner receives a vertical herb garden, chalkboard planter, cookbook and a $50 Green BEAN Delivery gift card
  • Veggie side: winner receives a French-made de Buyer Viper Dicing Mandolin slicer with interchangeable blades for cubes, diamond cuts, julienne, strips, sticks and rounds, a guide to cooking veggies, a cookbook and a $50 Green BEAN Delivery gift card
  • Pack-and-Go Healthy Lunch: winner receives a stainless steel bento-style PlanetBox lunch box with soft carry bag, two hinged Italian-made glass jars with airtight seals, six wooden and reusable chalkboard tags, a cookbook and a $50 Green BEAN Delivery gift card. 

All runners up will receive a $50 Green BEAN Delivery gift card.

Are you ready to enter? You can do it one of two ways: online by following this handy dandy link, or through snail mail at GREEN BEAN DELIVERY #PLATEPROUD RECIPE CONTEST, Green BEAN Delivery, PO Box 26700, Indianapolis, IN 46226 (all entries MUST be RECEIVED by May 22.)

Make sure you share all your awesome recipe ideas and outtakes on social media with the #PlateProud label!

I know which prize I’ve got my eye on (I’m coming for you, mandolin slicer!), what would you be most excited to win?

4.22.2015

I wore a bikini and the world didn’t end

You may or may not know I turned 30 last week. I’ve slowly started to embrace that this isn’t a terrible thing, but rather, a time for me to be confident in who I finally am. (Or at the very least, start to get comfortable with the idea that the person I hear in my head and see in the mirror is pretty much who I am).

You may or may not have read in the past about my struggles with body issues. Growing up I was never thin, and while I also wasn’t really what you’d consider “overweight,” I was always on the thicker side.  And in my eyes, being even slightly thick, meant I was fat. Whether it was all in my head or in my head because of media, society and marketing, I wore a bikini for three summers before forfeiting to my own body-shaming ways and wearing one pieces or tankinis.

Now, of course, nothing is wrong with one pieces and tankinis, however, the way I felt about my body and myself in ANY swimsuit WAS wrong.

I look back at photos of myself and wish I would have realized then how cute I was. And I don’t say that in a conceited way, I say it from the place of a 30-year-old mother who never wants her children to loathe themselves the way I did. When I was 14 and wore a bikini, I didn’t see the beginning of my figure forming or the ridiculously large bust size I’d recently “busted” out with (hardy har har), I saw stretch marks on my butt and breasts from growing too fast; and I saw too-wide hips that weren’t womanly, but boyish and ugly in my eyes.

I didn’t see cute freckles dotting my face, arms and legs (something people have always complimented me on my whole life), I saw ugly brown spots that formed splotches after being stuck in the sun for too long.

And before there was even a thigh gap to be gaped at, I hated the way my thighs touched, it didn’t matter that they were muscular or looked pretty in tights, I hated that they weren’t skinny.

So you see, part of me being 30 and embracing myself, largely includes me embracing my hips, my bust, thighs, freckles and all the other things I spent too many years hating and hiding.

So despite the fact that I’ve now got even MORE stretch marks on my hips and breasts, despite the fact that I’m a few pounds heavier than I was, despite the fact that I’ve got what Pearyn lovingly refers to as “my stripes” decorating my stomach, I wore a bikini again for the first time in 10 years last week. And I wore it confidently, damnit.

And guess what?

The world didn’t end. People didn’t point fingers and hush giggles, nope, none of that happened.

In fact, I’m pretty sure nobody even thought twice about me because most of the women there were busy worrying about their own bodies, the men were thinking about dunking each other and the kids were so engrossed in playing they wouldn’t have noticed if I entered the pool in a chicken suit.

And you know what? It felt great. It felt liberating. And it felt like for the first time in 10 years, I’ve started to see my body for what it is: a body. It’s not “fat” or “ugly” or “skinny” or “pretty,” it’s just me. It’s the same body that pitched tens of thousands of strikes over my lifetime, the same body that wore my wedding dress and married my husband, the same body that carried my children and the same body that has run countless 5Ks.

And even if I’m 30, even if I’ve got a few more marks and still don’t have that thigh gap, after years of loathing it I’m going to love it.


Because it’s MY body and I think it’s pretty fucking amazing.

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