Funny Muffin Friday: The Crayons (“Crowns”) Need to Breathe!

Funny Muffin Friday

To add a bit of levity to the emotion-charged post of yesterday, I decided to write about something funny that the Muffin Man said earlier this week.

We arrived home to find that Angel had again knocked over the crayons on the table so that many of them had fallen to the floor.  After I asked Muffin to pick up the crayons, he put them in his Halloween bucket because he said, “They can be safe in there.  And sound.  And the crowns (crayons) can breathe.”

The crayons in their new home!

Yes, you heard it here first from Muffin.  Crowns (Crayons) need to breathe!

My mind went to a nerdy place.  Do crayons need to breathe oxygen like animals or carbon dioxide like plants?  Or do they breathe nitrogen.  No, I haven’t been sniffing crayons; my mind simply went there!

I can’t resist a poll for this one!

Thoughtful Thursday: The Bullying Paradox

Thoughtful Thursday

This is actually an extremely difficult entry for me to write, but, to me, it is an extremely timely post.  That’s not to say that I want to jump on the overdone bullying bandwagon.  I guess it’s best to begin at the beginning.

Hi, my name is Muffin’s Mama, and I was a victim of bullying.  The first time I remember being bullied was in fourth grade, and I came home crying every day begging my mom to let me change schools (back to my old school where she taught).  Eventually, she did, and my fifth and sixth grade years were spent in relative harmony.  Then, in junior high, I was going to be in the same situation again–a school with those same students who made my life miserable in fourth grade.  I really liked seventh grade; I think that was around the time that I learned to escape through both writing and reading.  I wrote angst-driven poetry and stories in which the bullies were defeated (without bloodshed, or at least much bloodshed) by the bullied.  I had a few friends in seventh grade, but I was by no means popular.  At the end of seventh grade, the school district redrew the school residency lines, and my friends were transferred to another school.  This was the era before the Internet and cell phones.

Eighth grade was pretty much a return to fourth grade.  I became very introverted and wrote and read more than ever.  I decided if I could become invisible, the bullies would leave me alone.  For the most part, it worked, but some of the boys in my class decided to be cruel.  I learned the lesson of most bully victims–if you speak up–or worse, tell your parents and they let the school administration know so that the administration has  to do something, you become no longer invisible.  And if, worst of all, the boys that were bullying you are popular, you become marked.  Even now, years later, I see mention of some of those boys (local businesses, etc.), and I can’t have anything to do with them.  I became known as THE ONE WHO TOLD.  Instead of begging to go to middle school at the feeder school for the elementary school where my mom taught (which was not a possibility at that point), I began begging (in earnest) to be homeschooled.  This is years before homeschooling became a workable option for most people.  I just wanted out–and away–from being afraid to walk the halls.

High school I faded into obscurity again–gratefully.  I took to spending time in the library at lunch, writing and reading, with the other people who were just enough “off” to not fit into the ideal that my high school society (that the popular students) demanded.  A few notable moments of being bullied–mostly freshman and sophomore year–stick out, but, by my junior year, I had perfected my invisibility act.  Or I had just grown up and stopped being a victim.

Often, people say that bully victims today should just deal with it.  The prevailing logic behind that is “As a bully victim, I dealt with it and got over it.”  I remember the rite of passage of learning to deal with it and wouldn’t recommend that torture on anyone.  (And only once in fourth grade was the bullying physical for me.  I was always only bullied by those in my own grade level–and never by “older” kids in my grade because they were usually the misfits, like me)

The solution to the problem is never that simple.

Personally, from being bullied, I learned self-reliance and how to be comfortable just being by myself.  I learned to HATE injustice and to always root for the underdog (because someone needs to).  I developed a “tough skin” that has served me well in my profession.

But I know this:  bullies today have even more of an unfair advantage.  In a world saturated with text messages sent via cell phone, Facebook (known in my class as “the-other-F-word”), Twitter, and other social media, a victim really cannot escape his or her tormentors.  Yes, they can get off Facebook and Twitter, but, in my experience, someone at school will be just dying to tell the victim (as a “friend,” of course) that someone was talking about them on Facebook.  And that doesn’t really keep someone from texting you.

Several states (including my own) have enacted legislation to protect the victims, with very specific guidelines and steps teachers and administrators (and even police!) are to follow.  Yes, bullying is a violation of state law punishable by criminal prosecution if the bully is found guilty.  As a  former victim myself, I applaud the proactive measures to protect today’s youth.

But what if…?  (Have you started to ask yourself that question yet?)  But what if the victim doesn’t talk?  It falls on the teacher and the administrator to notice the signs of being a victim (frequent absenteeism, a drop in grade point average, withdrawn behavior, walking with head down everywhere) and to be aware!  Let’s say that you make a report as a teacher or an administrator.  There is no provision in the law for the victim that is too afraid to stand up.  And, sad to say, that happens.  Frequently.  What if the victim does speak to a counselor or a parent about it but then won’t speak to the administration or the police?  The case against the bully cannot stand.

Another problem is that rarely does bullying involve only the bully and the victim.  There are the “innocent” bystanders.  The friends of the boy who saw a weakness in me in 8th grade and pounced on that weakness, using it against me?  They laughed.  They thought he was funny.  By bullying me, he provided them with entertainment.  And once he got in trouble, they made sure that I knew that I shouldn’t have ever spoken out.  I never spoke out again when someone bullied me, just made sure that I was easily forgettable. If you are forgettable and invisible, you rarely get bullied, remember?

There are those “innocent” bystanders that don’t want to get involved because they don’t want to be a “snitch.”  I had to explain to Muffin this week the difference between being a “snitch” and being a “hero.”  Hint:  a snitch or a tattletale does so to get someone in trouble.  A hero does so to save and/or protect someone.

I’m a big believer in blaming the “innocent” bystanders, can you tell?

Ultimately, bullying is truly a paradox.  Yes, it’s a problem.  Yes, states have enacted legislation to prevent it.  But it’s still going on.  And I, the person who likes to have all the answers, just really don’t know the answer to this problem.  But as a mother, and an aunt, I know it has to be solved–like, decades ago.  In eighteen months, my son will enter kindergarten.  Public school.  Like his father, he’s going to be bigger (taller and broader) than others his age.  I doubt he will be bullied, but how can I know for sure?  I am scared for my son.

Maybe, if we all are proactive enough about it, either 1) the bullies will realize that, like the old song, “we aren’t gonna take it anymore” or 2) the victims will eventually be allowed to have a voice without recriminations, reprisals, or fear of peer punishment from the “innocent” bystanders.  All I know is, “Life isn’t fair, and they should just learn to deal with it” is not, nor should it ever have been or be, an excuse.  And it definitely isn’t a reason.

Tomorrow will be a brighter, shinier, happier, and funnier day as I implement Funny Muffin Friday.  I promise.  Take care, and don’t forget to root for the underdog.

We Plan Wednesday: Planning for Muffin’s Thomas Party! (Part 1)

We Plan Wednesday

Welcome to We Plan Wednesday where the LFam plans for parties, trips, and projects.

Today, I am going to write about my plans (so far) for Muffin’s fourth birthday party in April.  For the second year in a row, he has requested a Thomas and Friends party.

A sidebar about birthday parties:  I know it has become trendy to give over-the-top parties that rival Super Sweet Sixteen parties–for toddlers.  And, I admit, I was guilty of thinking “More is better” last time around.  But do you know what my son and nephews like best about birthday parties?  Blown up latex balloons covering a floor for them to run through, jump among, and bat around in the air.  Not pin the smoke stack on Thomas.  Not Thomas Bingo.  Not Thomas Memory.  Balloons.

So, item #1 is balloons.

Item #2 is the cake.  Cupcakes work best for a child’s party (a fact my sister has proven time and time again–she makes the best cupcakes!), and –I’m about to commit Party Mama heresy here–I don’t think boys especially really care how they are decorated.  They just want cake!  The recipe–the chocolate cupcakes we have now made two weeks in a row–with the same frosting.  Muffin will decorate them with the rainbow jimmies (in minimalist fashion–his most recent cupcake decorating was a few carefully placed jimmies placed decorously in the center of the top of each cake).  I will probably make Thomas cupcake picks to stick in them.

Item #3 is punch.  I have pinned (and for some reason attempted to repin time and time again) a Tiffany blue punch (almost exactly the same color as Thomas) made of blue Hawaiian Punch and lemonade.  I will probably serve them in red cups (Muffin loves James the engine, as well) with straws decorated with Thomas cutouts.

Last year, at Thomas-party-the-first, I put together a “train” led by the Thomas-shaped Easter basket, followed by disposable loaf pans that acted as train cars filled with edibles–pretzel rod “Jobe wood,” popcorn, marshmallow “puffs of steam,” and a few other items.  It was a hit!  The Thomas basket held the treat bags.  Snacks are item #4.

I had also had a “Pin the Smoke Stack on Thomas” game, but the boys had so much fun with the balloons that we didn’t play it.  I may pull it out this year.  This is a possible item #5.

Item #6 is the treat bags.  Color sheets with crayons are a must as well as some blue and red candy.  I will be looking at Party City, Oriental Trading, and the Pinteresting Blogosphere for some ideas–especially “Thomas-y” ones.

When next we visit, I will hopefully have planned the party some more.  For tomorrow, Thoughtful Thursday, I will be sharing my thoughts on a fairly painful subject.

Rene playing with balloons at last year's party!

Muffin playing with balloons at last year’s party!

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The party table. My sister hosted Muffin’s party at her house which was totally awesome!

Tip Tuesday: Prepping the Week’s Meals on the Weekend (or Your Day Off)

Tip Tuesday

If you are like me, and you work outside the home, the weekend (or your days off) is really the only time you have to take a breather, reassess, and tackle that meal plan!  Several people have told me this is a waste of time or that it doesn’t fit into their schedule, but this seems to be the only way I can hold true to the meal plan.

As I said in the post from yesterday about meal planning, I tend to focus on leftovers and planned overs to appear several times throughout a week.  Let’s look at this week, for example:

Monday:  Chicken Enchiladas:  I did all preparation for these on the weekend, wrapped the casserole in foil, and placed it in the fridge to bake last night.  Prep time for dinner on cooking day–not counting the actual cooking time–as long as it takes to pull the casserole out of the oven, place it in the oven, pull it out, set the table, grab a bag of tortilla chips and a jar of salsa, and pour the salsa into a bowl–roughly five minutes.

Getting ready to dig in to the enchiladas!

Getting ready to dig in to the enchiladas!

Tuesday:  Subs:  I sliced most vegetables except for the lettuce, tomato, and olives, so that will add a bit more prep time to dinner tonight.  Then, I have to put the meat, cheese, and sauce on the subs and bake them in the oven.  I have to gather all of the toppings.  Estimated prep time for dinner on cooking day:  15-20 minutes.

Wednesday Leftovers:  (I will probably take stuff out of the freezer tonight and place in the fridge to thaw for tomorrow):  For cooking day:  pull items out of fridge.  Put on plate.  Microwave.  Estimated cooking time:  10 minutes.

Thursday:  Frito pies:  After supper on Tuesday, I will chop up the remaining veggies for the haystacks (dice the half moons of onion that remain as well as the green pepper).  Lay out some chips.  Open and heat a can of chili in the microwave.  Top with toppings.  Cooking day time:   roughly 10 minutes.

Friday:  pizza Friday.  The only prep for this one is seasoning some tomato sauce with Italian seasonings.  Cooking day:  prep tomato sauce, slice sub rolls and bake them at 400 for a few minutes to get crispy while gathering the rest of the toppings, top with slather with sauce, top with cheese followed by pepperoni and any other toppings.  Bake at 400 for ten minutes until cheese melts and pepperoni gets slightly crispy.  Estimated time:  20 minutes.

This actually saves a LOT of time and frustration because the last thing I want to worry about after a long day of work is cooking a meal from scratch.

Join me tomorrow for We Plan Wednesday where I will begin the conscious planning for Muffin’s birthday party.

Meal Plan Monday: How to Meal Plan

Meal Plan Monday

Welcome to my new plan to keep my blog current. I am going to have set topic categories each day that I will blog about. Today’s category is Meal Plan Monday.

Some people plan meals while on the way home in five o’clock traffic. If you’re one of those people as I used to be (and sometimes lapse into being again), there is hope.

There are several ways to approach meal planning. Some plan the next day’s evening meal the night before after supper. Some people plan weekly or bi-weekly. As for me, I try to plan my meals monthly (although I often alter it to suit my needs throughout the month).

Even of those who plan monthly, some do a weekly (or monthly) meal rotation, repeating the same items month to month (or even week to week). I do not do this. Yes, we usually have some form of Tex-Mex during the week and pizza usually on Fridays, but I don’t repeat the same 20-30 meals over and over. Although, now that I think about it, that would make things easier.

I also don’t usually plan all three meals a day. As I mentioned in a previous post, I keep a stockpile of items that can be used easily for breakfast and/or lunch. I also try to keep potatoes, canned veg, frozen veg, fruit, rice, and pasta handy for supper sides. I focus on only the main dish of supper with vague mentions of side dishes.

I’ve also built up enough of a rotating protein stockpile so that I can plan most of my meals a month in advance. If I don’t have quite enough, I know that I will have enough by the time that date rolls around because usually the major protein sales follow a predictable pattern. Some people plan weekly based on the circulars. I use the non-perishable and protein items found in the circulars to plan future months’ meals. If a perishable non-protein item is on sale one week, I might swap out a meal using that ingredient for a meal I wasn’t completely happy about making (like lasagna from a super deal on ricotta and cottage cheeses).

I plan with leftovers in mind. Sometimes, it may mean making several things out of one ingredient (such as a roast or boiled chicken), utilizing the mean in two or more meals and the broth for another. Sometimes planned-overs (planned leftovers) means making extra rice when rice is a side to make fried rice later. Sometimes it means having the exact same main dish more than once in a week (or making two casseroles and freezing one for later–or for a neighbor or friend in need). I also sometimes plan a leftover day or a clean-out-the-fridge-and-freezer day. I will be posting my very soapbox-y opinion on leftovers a bit later this week.

So, the meal plan task is much less daunting this way. I know if I have a plan that I won’t be sliding into a drive thru lane (avoiding eye contact with those who judge me for my Taco Bell addiction) or worse, a booth at a “moderately priced” restaurant which, of late, has become disappointing in most cases–or at least not as often.

I try to wait until I have Josh’s schedule so that I know what to plan and when. This morning his boss e-mailed the schedule, so I am super pumped to get planning. I write the meal plan on my special Brookshire’s Celebrate Cooking calendar. Then, each Wednesday when the ads come out, I make my grocery list and (usually) shop on Saturday.

So, looking at this week’s menu plan, I planned the following:

Today: Chicken Enchiladas (ding! Tex Mex)
Tomorrow: Italian/pizza/BMT sub sandwiches
Wednesday: Loony Leftovers (including freezer), hot dog, or scavenge
Thursday: frito pie/chili-frito haystacks
Friday: pizza in some form (ding! pizza)

Tune in tomorrow for Tip Tuesday where I explain what does (and does not) work for me in the Pinteresting Blogosphere.

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Muffin Eating Dinner

Muffin Eating Dinner

Please ignore the mess! The mixing bowl in the background (between Muffin and the white mixer) is full of frosting waiting for me to frost the cupcakes. This is of Muffin enjoying his dinner. As I said in a previous post, he really liked the wonton (I think that was his second one with the bite taken out of it in the picture), and he said he liked the chicken and made an “O” surprised face when I told him the secret ingredient was peanut butter. “I love peanut butter,” he said.
He has decided that for the second year in a row he is going to have a Thomas party (although a robot party almost edged it out). So, in upcoming weeks, you will see lots of planning for the party.

Muffin Approved

Muffin’s Dinner Plate

Rene's Dinner Plate

I’m showing Muffin’s plate because his plating is more picturesque. This is the chicken peanut sauce stir fry (see stir fry veg picture for the recipe location) with the sort-of Melissa D’Arabian Ten Dollar Dinners Ginger-Orange Wontons. I say sort of because I don’t have any fresh ginger. I was going to use chopped crystallized ginger, but I couldn’t find it (It really has been one of those days).
So, basically, my version of the recipe is as follows:

Creamy Orange Wontons
16 wonton skins
3 oz. cream cheese, room temperature (which didn’t quite happen this way, but the next time I make them I will have it be room temperature)
2 T orange marmalade
water, for sealing the wontons
enough vegetable oil to come 3/4 inch up the side of a heavy skillet

Blend the cream cheese and marmalade together using a fork. (It’s kinda soupy.) Add more cream cheese if you want it thicker. Per wonton: place a wonton on a small plate in front of you “diamond shaped,” points up and down left and right (rather than a square). Spoon one rounded teaspoon onto the center of the wonton. Paint the top edges of the wonton with water using your finger. If Muffin had been more interested in the project, this is the part I would have had him do. Slide the bottom up to meet the top, being sure to seal it completely and making sure that no filling is slipping out. As you can tell from the picture, some filling leaked out…a lot. Repeat, placing the filled triangles on a plate, until you run out of filling. Mine made 16. Melissa D’Arabian’s recipe (with a bit less cream cheese and marmalade) made 12. She said it makes 4 3-wonton servings.
Heat the oil in a heavy skillet over medium-high heat. Place 3-4 wontons in the oil at a time. When you see the desired shade of golden brown peeking out at the edges, carefully flip over. There is a lot of oil spatter in this recipe. Next time, I will fry with hot mitts on. This is not a part that Muffin can help me with.
When the other side is the desired brownness, exit the wontons to a paper-towel-lined plate, being careful not to place them on top of each other and allowing them to drain of oil. Serve warm.
Note: I mentioned that Melissa D’Arabian said that the serving size is three wontons.
Muffin ate five! This recipe is definitely Muffin Approved.

For a printable version of the recipe, please check out my recipe page.

Muffin Approved